Nel's New Day

July 2, 2019

Federal Appointment Replacements Worse for Democracy

Former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has left the White House for Arkansas after holding fewer briefings than during any of the previous five presidents’ terms—probably an average of one every other month. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told her last January not to bother to meet with press conferences. New Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham, will do the job of not meeting with the press while staying on as spokesperson for Melanie Trump and becoming Communications Director, formerly Bill Shine.

Grisham cut her chops at the Korean DMZ Freedom House in an episode called “an all out brawl” with “body blows” as she elbowed and pushed a North Korean security guard. Her elegant diplomacy matches that of her employer when DDT pushed aside Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic at the 2017 NATO summit. 

Lying is another of DDT’s characteristic that Grisham emulates. She claimed that Melania Trump’s jacket stating “I really don’t care. Do U?” was just a jacket with no meaning before the First Lady said that it was “a message.” Trump said she wore it “for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.” In July 2018, Grisham supported DDT’s false claim that he arrived in the UK on June 23, 2016, the day of the Brexit referendum, where he predicted the vote outcome. DDT wasn’t there until the next day. In his report, Robert Mueller documented Grisham’s serial lying.

Grisham has a strong anti-press background. As spokeswoman for the Arizona House of Representatives GOP, she implemented the policy banning reporters from the legislative floor if they “would not consent to extensive background checks.” The policy focused on Arizona reporter Hank Stephenson after he provided evidence that House Speaker David Gowan used state-owned vehicles for his congressional campaign and forced Gowan to return over $12,000 to the state. Misdemeanor trespassing was one reason for barring reporters because Stephenson pled guilty to the charge in 2014. Her policy lasted only a few days because some Republicans expressed concern and no member of the Phoenix press corps would sign the form. While a member of DDT’s transition team, Grisham did no work for Arizona but stayed on the state’s payroll.

In September 2018, Grisham was reprimanded for violating the Hatch Act that prevents White House employees from party-political activities. DDT promoted her with a raise in salary. 

In the EPA, one fossil fuel industry shill was traded for another. Bill Wehrum, formerly a lobbyist trying to destroy President Obama’s safeguards on polluters, could more easily do the job when he oversaw fossil fuel pollution regulations. Wehrum was confirmed with no Democratic votes to focus on “climate change, smog, and power plants’ mercury pollution.” Like his corrupt predecessor Scott Pruitt, Wehrum resigned after 19 months in the midst of a congressional investigation into his improperly helping his former industry clients after the media shined a light on his inappropriate activities. He slowed fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks as well as rewriting methods of calculating costs and benefits to favor fossil fuel requirements. He also wrote the way that more coal-fired power plants could open.

Wehrun’s lack of ethics followed those of other Cabinet members who resigned—EPA’s Schott Pruitt, HHS’ Tom Price, Interior’s Ryan Zinke, and VA’s Davi Shulkin—and FEMA’s William “Brock” Long.” Other current ethics investigations include Interior’s new Secretary David Bernhardt plus six current or former top appointees for behavior like that of Wehrum.

Although at least one climate activist literally danced after Wehrum’s departure, the replacement has not brought joy. Anne Idsal, Wehrum’s deputy assistant, will continue EPA’s destruction and fall in line with DDT’s deregulation. She belongs to the dark ages belief that “climate has been changing since the dawn of time” and has strong ties to the Bush-Cheney administration. Her family owns the ranch where VP Dick Cheney shot a friend in the face while hunting ring-necked pheasants. Her connections extend to George P. Bush, George W. Bush’s nephew, who cleared out 11 top staffers of the General Land Office after he was elected in 2014 to manage Texas’ oil and gas resources. Idsal was one of 29 people hired for Bush’s Land Office without the jobs being posted, and she has ties to industry associations and Exxon Mobil.

Having lost with Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, DDT plans to appoint Christopher Waller and Judy Shelton for the two empty Federal Board seats. Both conservatives want to lower interest rates, and DDT’s close friend and Fed-hater Shelton wants to return to the gold standard, abandoned by Richard Nixon almost 50 years ago.

With White House aide and neo-Nazi Stephen Miller in charge of DHS, chaos continues to reign in the department, designed to protect U.S. security, supports DDT’s politics. Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders for two months leaves after publicity of squalid living conditions for children at border stations that provide no child care, bedding, and hygiene items while submitting the children to sleep deprivation. Yet Sanders was fired because he wasn’t aggressive enough in blocking asylum seekers. In the past three months, DHS has also done away with its secretary (Kirstjen Nielsen), acting ICE chief (Ron Vitiello), acting deputy secretary (Claire Grady), and Citizenship and Immigration Services director (Lee Cissna). The House Oversight and Reform Committee ordered testimony on July 12 from DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan and acting Customs and Border Protection Commission Mark Morgan about the deplorable conditions for children held at the southern border. 

Hardliner Morgan, who claims that he can predict future gang members by looking into the eyes of children, left ICE after five weeks to replace Sanders. While head of ICE, Morgan pushed for raids to deport undocumented families. Earlier, McAleenan had opposed Miller’s directive to appoint Morgan head of Customs and Border Protection but caved under pressure. When Morgan disagreed with his boss, McAleenan, he circumvented him by going directly to DDT. Matthew Albence, ICE’s deputy director who was noted for saying that family detention centers are “more like a summer camp,” is now acting director of the agency. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hamedaleaziz/ice-director-matthew-albence-trump-immigration-enforcement

DDT loves officials to be “acting.” Dana Milbank explains: 

“Without stature or protection of Senate confirmation [for officials] … allows Trump to demand absolute subservience from appointees. Because he can replace them at will, they don’t contradict him. But this tentative status also means they lack authority within their agencies and the stature to stand up to Trump when he’s wrong.”

An ”acting” official leads every major border- and immigration-related agency in DHS. DDT said, “I do burn out on people, I do.” McAleenan may be close to DDT’s burnout because of his more reasonable approach toward enforcing immigration, for example opposition to mass ICE raids rounding up migrant families, although he supported DDT’s separation of families.

DDT prefers Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia AG who lost his run for governor, as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services with his record of climate crisis denial, anti-LGBT discrimination, opposition to women’s reproductive rights, censorship for safe sex information, obstruction to the Catholic Church’s care for vulnerable populations, blocks to all gun violence reduction efforts, and anti-immigration. Cuccinelli matches Miller in lack of human decency, for example blaming the man who died with his toddler daughter in the Rio Grande River because he wouldn’t wait for the asylum process. After waiting two months in Mexico for asylum, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez became desperate because of the punitive months-long waiting period.

The union representing federal works with asylum seekers criticizes DDT’s policies, specifically the one returning migrants seeking refuge to Mexico until decisions are made on their applications. In a court filing, the union wrote:

“By forcing a vulnerable population to return to a hostile territory where they are likely to face persecution, the [Migrant Protection Protocols] abandons our tradition of providing a safe haven to the persecuted and violates our international and domestic legal obligations.”

Less compassionate are the 9,500 current and former members of the Border Patrol who joke about the deaths of migrants on a secret Facebook group and share derogatory comments about Latinx lawmakers visiting a detention facility. Calling them “scum buckets” and “hoes,” agents joke about throwing burritos at them and posted a drawing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) having oral sex with a detained migrant. Revelations about these agents, including at least one supervisor, follow an investigation into the hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers connected to extremist Facebook sources, including white supremacist and anti-government groups. House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested information from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the Border Patrol agents secret Facebook group with vulgar sexist and racist content mocking immigrants and congressional members.

After Ocasio-Cortez left one of the facilities, she said that she did not feel safe from the officers. Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings said, “Agents are under a great deal of stress.” After the Border Patrol agents’ Facebook group asked for protesters to come abuse legislators, Ocasio-Cortez needed an escort back to her vehicle. Border agents feel comfortable threatening everyone, including elected members of Congress. 

Welcome to the United States of America under DDT. 

April 9, 2019

DDT’s People: Part II, Proximity Instead of Professionalism

Where does Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) find the people who he extols, hires, berates, and then fires? A family wedding planner received an important HUD position. DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner found economic adviser Peter Navarro while browsing Amazon and seeing the title of his book, Death by China. For the Federal Reserve, DDT is nominating Stephen Moore, a GOP pundit who co-wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that complained about the Federal Reserve keeping the economy from glorious heights. The lies in the piece caught the attention of DDT’s national adviser Larry Kudlow, who subscribes to the same falsehoods. He told DDT about Moore, and DDT tweeted that he would nominate Moore, “a very respected Economist,” to fill a vacant position “on the Fed Board.”

Moore is neither an economist nor respected. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones wrote that “this is about like nominating Dr. Phil to run the CDC.” Moore admits that he knows very little about monetary policy, a focus of the Federal Reserve.

“I’m kind of new to this game, frankly, so I’m going to be on a steep learning curve myself about how the Fed operates, how the Federal Reserve makes its decisions. It’s hard for me to say even what my role will be there, assuming I get confirmed.”

About the appropriate size of the Fed’s balance sheet, Moore said,“To be honest, I’m going to have to study up on this one.” During the 2008 recession, Moore regarded Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged as his economic guide, but he didn’t even get the pretentious novel’s plot right. He used an event in which the government co-opted an invention to banks pressured to accept bailouts when the U.S. economy was ready to crash. Moore’s recommendation was to watch the world burn.

Moore’s owes $75,000 in unpaid federal taxes, interest, and penalties. When he was found in contempt of court for refusing to pay his wife tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent divorce, alimony, and child support payments, four police officers, two realtors, and a locksmith came to his house to sell his residence, per a court order. He had claimed he “paid off his wife,” but the total was just a fraction of what he owed after the seven people came to the house. Past-due payments came to $333,000. After Moore paid his ex-wife about two-thirds of his debt to her, the court called off the sale of the house.

Chief economist for the right-wing Heritage Foundation, Moore received his M.A. from George Mason University, the third most conservative college in the U.S. He is on the editorial board of the Murdoch’s conservative Wall Street Journal and founding president of the union-breaking Club for Growth, partly funded by the Koch brothers. They also donated $12 million to “Freedom Works,” where Moore is listed as “senior economic contributor.” He does no economic research but is always ready to make right-wing comments in economic policy debates. A respected conservative economist, Greg Makiw, said Moore “does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job,” and even Fox’s Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller finds Moore unethical.

Slate wrote:

“Stephen Moore is a living embodiment of the sucking intellectual void at the core of conservative economics, an inept pundit who has spent his career evangelizing the supply-side dogma that tax cuts pay for themselves while shilling for Republican officeholders, all from well-paid perches at think tanks and in the media.”

Moore follows the failed theory of the GOP economic platform that big tax cuts for billionaires and corporations will cause prices to fall. He wants to use a Fed position to “free” the economy from “oppressive taxation” although the Board has nothing to do with taxation. Moore was heavily involved in destroying Kansas’ economy when he told former Gov. Sam Brownback to make his draconian tax cuts. The extreme austerity for government programs decimated their educational systems and other needs, and people raised taxes as soon as Brownback escaped into DDT’s government as a world ambassador for “religious freedom.”

Moore doesn’t reserve his public opinions to economics.

  • He defended Alabama’s U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of molesting a teenage girl by claiming that his opponent, now-Sen. Doug Jones, was as bad because he supports abortion rights.
  • He tried to slut-shame Stormy Daniels, paid off by DDT to keep their affair secret, in an interview on Don Lemon’s show.
  • He argued that scientists lie about their concern regarding climate change to get “really, really, really rich.”

The question is what the Senate will do with Moore. Eight years ago, GOP senators blocked President Obama’s Fed nomination Peter Diamond, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, for over a year and then killed it. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), still in the Senate at the age of 84, joined others to question Diamond’s qualifications.

Reeling from Moore’s nomination, people were even more shocked to hear that DDT is considering the former presidential candidate, pizza man Herman Cain, for another Fed position. On paper, Cain’s credentials may look slightly better than those of Moore: he served on an advisory board to the Kansas City branch of the central bank for a few years in the 1990s. Fortunately for the bank, he had no decision-making power.

People who watched the 2012 presidential campaign may remember Cain when he argued that people “need a leader, not a reader” and said he didn’t care who “the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” is. He also touted his 9-9-9 tax plan based on false information. Cain quoted Pokemon in his departure from the campaign and then turned his mailing list into peddling suspected scams after he quit. During DDT’s campaign, Cain was a supporter, calling DDT a “shucky-ducky kind of candidate.” And it got worse from there. In 2015, Cain told Glenn Beck that Muslims should not be able to serve in government until they took a loyalty oath.

Cain dropped out of his 2012 campaign after allegations of sexual harassment. He denied them by saying that thousands of women he worked with would not make that claim. Cain’s lawyer, however, said that any women considering such accusations should “think twice.” Slate legal editor Dahlia Lithwick pointed out how this statement only exacerbates the threat of patriarchal power—something that DDT is still wielding.

Cain has a pattern of selecting people who may participate in sexual misconduct like DDT has. Sharon Bialek said that Cain told her she had to put up with his running his hand up her skirt if she wanted a job. Karen Kraushaar said that Cain groped her in the 1990s. Cain denied these allegations last week by stating that he would “be able to explain [the allegations] this time, where they wouldn’t let me explain it the last time. They were too busy believing the accusers.”

Others:

  1. GOP Senators confirmed Brett Kavanaugh for a Supreme Court position after three accusations of sexual misconduct.
  2. Andrew Puzder dropped out as a nominee for Secretary of Labor only after a publicized video showed his ex-wife in an Oprah Winfrey show called “High Class Battered Women.”
  3. DDT replaced Puzder with Alex Acosta, a billionaire pedophile enabler.
  4. Bill Shine acted as “fixer” for Fox executives accused of sexual misconduct.
  5. Barry Myers, nominee to lead NOAA, was chief executive for a family company that paid $290,000 after being found guilty of subjecting women to sexual harassment.
  6. Steve Munoz, accused of sexually assaulting five men at The Citadel military college, is still listed as assistant chief of protocol of visits for the State Department.

None of these men, including DDT, exhibited any remorse about their actions.

A CNBC survey of Wall Street shows that a majority of them doesn’t want either Moore or Cain on the Federal Reserve board. Results opposed both Moore by 60 percent and Cain  (53 percent). Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. Financial Market Economist at Oxford Economics, wrote that the men’s confirmations “would be very disruptive at a time when monetary policy is at an important crossroads.” Fund managers, economists and strategists participated in the polling. They also predicted the confirmation of Moore by 51 percent and Cain by 49 percent. Forty-seven percent of respondents think that nominations combined with DDT’s directing the Fed are “reducing the central bank’s independence” with implications for markets and the economy. Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, said, “Stacking the Fed with partisan hacks would alter how the market views the Fed’s decisions.”

DDT wants to people on the Federal Reserve Board who will cut interest rates for personal financial and political benefit. His recommended idea, quantitative easing by buying Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities used to get out a recession, would give the economy a sugar high long enough, DDT hopes, to get him elected. These nominations for a supposedly independent agency bodes poorly for the vast majority of people in the nation and around the world.

DDT’s People: Part I, Swinging Doors

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 12:05 AM
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A promise that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) made during his presidential campaign was to “hire the best people.” He bragged he’d “surround myself only with the best and most serious people” because “we want top-of-the-line professionals.” Yet he fires his people at a fast rate. The White House employees have had a 65 percent turnover—sometimes several times. His Cabinet turnover before the end of his first year was 50 percent, twice that of the next highest in Bill Clinton’s term. Wikipedia has kindly provided the long list of departures.

As DDT hires people, ridicules them and then fires them, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) changed the chamber’s rules to a maximum debate time of two hours in confirmations from the previous 30 hours when Democrats were in charge. Debates are extraneous for the GOP approach of confirming everyone no matter what criminal acts the appointees have committed or how many conflicts of interest they have.

DDT’s latest purge started with his firing DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen yesterday, the 15th DDT Cabinet departure, despite her faithfully lying for him about the policy and conditions of immigration. Both national security adviser John Bolton and DDT blamed Nielsen for the influx of immigrants since Bolton’s attack on her last October. The acting director, Kevin McAleenan, may not last long, because neo-Nazi Stephen Miller, responsible for DDT’s purge, wants to get rid of McAleenan.

More ousters come from DDT’s plan wants to expand migrant family separations in families of both undocumented immigrants and legal asylum seekers. Both DHS undersecretary for management Claire Grady and DHS general counsel John Mitnick are leaving the administration, and U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles was fired today. Miller is behind the entire purge. DDT ordered border patrol agents to break the law by refusing to let migrants into the country. Their bosses later told them that border agents would break the law at their own risk. Today, a federal judge also blocked DDT’s policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico.

With 22 GOP senator positions up for re-election, Republicans are getting nervous about backlash. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), said, Texas), “One thing we all agree on now is families ought to be kept together as much as possible.” He may change his mind in confirmation hearings for all these positions.

Linda E. McMahon, pulled from the world of wrestling to head the Small Business Administration, also left the government amid rumors that she might replace Wilbur Ross to head up the Commerce Department or help America First PAC raise donations. Jovita Carranza, the U.S. treasurer and former UPS executive, may be nominated to replace McMahon.

Ronald Vitiello, acting ICE director, was fired for director before he could complete his confirmation hearings because DDT wanted someone to go “in a tougher direction.” Miller was behind getting rid of Vitiello because he didn’t 100-percent support DDT’s idea of shutting down the southern border.

Scott Gottlieb, FDA Chief who allowed e-cigarettes for teenagers before he found out that they were addictive, escaped on his own a month ago for a “family” thing. Announcements of his departure largely forgot that he delayed regulations to remove removal of e-cigarettes to 2022 because he thought that they were better for people than tobacco cigarettes and encouraged e-cigarette makers to promote them as smoking cessation aids. A year later, Gottlieb was shocked to discover that teenage vaping had become an “epidemic.”

Bill Shine’s departed at about the same time after nine months. He was the sixth communication director in about two years. In a real presidency, the communications director plots strategies to explain the importance of policy initiatives being considered, but DDT’s policies change day to day depending on what Fox & Friends discusses. An early Shine failure was his lack of preparation to deal with the fallout from Bob Woodward’s critical book Fear. The icing on the firing cake was Michael Cohen’s devastating congressional testimony and DDT’s collapse of negotiations with Kim Jong-Un. DDT complained that Shine hadn’t polished DDT’s image and started calling him “No Shine” last December. Shine, who left the week of Jane Meyer’s Fox/DDT exposé in the New Yorker, joins the president’s reelection campaign as a “senior adviser,” allowing him to spend “more time with my family.” Press briefings largely disappeared since DDT moved into the Oval Office. The most recent one was four weeks ago after a 42-day dry spell.

Tim Galludet, NOAA’s acting director, was replaced in late February by Neil Jacobs, who had worked on weather forecasting for Panasonic, a possible conflict of interest. The science agency researches and disseminates vital data about oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere for regulation. Confirmation for DDT’s nominee, former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers, has been slow because he wants to privatize NOAA functions for his own benefit by keeping NOAA from directly providing information to the public. Myers’ brother still owns the business.

Matt Whitaker, former acting AG, largely disappeared after the Senate confirmed AG Bill Barr to protect DDT. For a few days, Whitaker served as a DOJ counsel but mysteriously left. In early March, he testified before the House Judiciary Committee about earlier lies under oath in his attempt to stay out of prison. The second time around, Whitaker admitted DDT described DDT’s influence over him, calling him to talk about the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District of New York. Whitaker also said he took part in discussions about firing U.S. attorneys.

Jessie Liu is staying in her current position as U.S. Attorney for DC where she led over 300 prosecutors of public corruption and fraud against the federal government. DDT had appointed her for #3 in the DOJ overseeing litigation, possibly to keep her from investigating himself. Liu pulled her name from consideration for the new position after far-right Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) yelled at AG Bill Barr that Liu didn’t oppose abortion enough. Lee ignored the fact that the Associate AG should not give opinions on DOJ decisions and no one knows Liu’s opinions on abortion.

Alex Acosta is sticking around as Labor Secretary—at least for now—although the heat may eventually get to DDT. Last week when Acosta testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Democrats quizzed him about the extremely lenient deal that he gave billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2007, allowing the pedophile to avoid all federal charges. Made when Acosta was Florida’s DA, the plea deal was ruled improper and a violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Acts. The case moves forward to nullify Epstein’s—and Acosta’s—deal progresses.

For over a year, the media has pointed out that DDT is afraid to directly fire people. Sometimes he tweets that they are gone or gets someone else to send them letters, like sending his bodyguard to deliver a letter to former FBI director James Comey. While John Kelly was chief of staff, he got the dirty work, as in the case of former State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson and Omarosa. Jeff Sessions wouldn’t quit, no matter how much abuse DDT heaped on him, so DDT sent Kelly to get a resignation letter from the former AG. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was assigned to fire Tex Alles, but Secret Service officials discovered the firing on CNN. DDT has shown himself to be gutless for a man who made his name yelling, “You’re fired!” He can kill thousands of civilians, separate children from parents, and destroy lives in many other ways—but he can’t fire people.

At least 20 staffers at the Treasury Department have quit rather than be involved in politically-based sanctions that harm the United States. Unilateral sanctions not followed by other nations only hurt U.S. manufacturers and agriculture. DDT’s philosophy that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” are causing farmers to lose billions of dollars, long-term changes in food production and international trade, and decreasing the GDP that made lead to a recession. Prices for wheat, corn, and soybeans are all down, forcing taxpayers to fund the billions necessary to offset this damage. The Federal Reserve has cited DDT’s trade wars as a prime factor for upcoming fiscal problems in the U.S. The staffers are switching to jobs for lobbyists and law firms working with foreign companies when they can help nations and corporations avoid DDT’s ill-advised sanctions.

And speaking of the Federal Reserve, Part II of this segment is reserved for the two men who may be making decisions on this supposedly independent agency, one already appointment and the other under consideration.

April 6, 2019

DDT: Week 115, Part II – Disasters Causing Meltdown

Watching Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ramble on has caused increasing concern among those exposed to his television appearances. [The “meltdown” cover from last summer’s Time may be even more appropriate now.]

This past week, he talked about his father being born in a “wonderful” place in Germany although Fred Trump was born in New York City, the son of a man banished from Bavaria because of draft dodging. DDT’s grandfather was the immigrant, like those who DDT hate and fear. Although DDT’s grandfather became a citizen earlier, he brought his wife back from Europe just three months before DDT’s father was born in 1905. During the same session, DDT talked about the “oranges” of the Mueller report instead of its “origins.” The noise from “windmills” causes cancer, according to DDT. If true, as Stephen Colbert said, everyone in Holland would be dead.

Bad news keeps piling up on him. The new book A Hill to Die On (Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer), released this past week, reveals much about DDT’s contentious relationship with congressional members, and the WaPo published its latest record of DDT’s lies since his inauguration—9,451 as of March 31. That’s an average of almost 12 a day, with a high acceleration rate in the past year.

For the second time recently, Congressional Republicans passed a bill that DDT has promised to veto, a resolution to end U.S. military support for DDT’s Saudi/UAE-Led Coalition’s brutal war on Yemen. The House vote of 247-175 included 16 yes GOP votes. The Senate passed the bill last month with seven Republicans voting for it. That chamber had passed the same resolution last December, but former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) refused to bring it to the floor. A bicameral War Powers Resolution has not passed Congress since the original passage of the 1973 War Powers Act.

DDT also has problems with  his tax returns. His tax firm promised to give ten years of his returns to Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chair of the House Oversight Committee. House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Richard Neal (D-MA), also asked the IRS for six years of DDT’s personal and business tax information, using a law from almost a century ago. DDT’s lawyers claim that Neal has no justification, but another law governing tax return disclosure requires the Treasury secretary to hand over all returns requested by the chairs of congressional committees that oversee taxes. No Treasury secretary has ever refused Congress’ request. Neither Secretary Steve Mnuchin nor the IRS has responded. Mnuchin himself is in trouble: the U.S. Ethics Office—which is much more lax than in the past—won’t certify his 2018 financial disclosure statement because of his possibly shady dealings. Last month, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was also told his disclosure statement couldn’t be certified because of an accuracy.

Although DDT typically dawdles in making appointments for government officials, the Senate confirmed Michael Desmond as the new chief counsel of the IRS on February 27—two weeks after DDT asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to fast-track the process. Desmond has earlier advised the Trump Organization on tax issues before DDT took office and worked with tax counsels for the Trump Organization. Last fall, the Senate confirmed Charles Rettig, owner of a unit in a Trump building and author of an article arguing that DDT should not release his tax returns, as the IRS Commissioner. The old saying “follow the money” has been joined by “follow DDT’s appointments.”

DDT had another tax problem when WaPo discovered that he had failed to pay taxes of $36,200 on his LA golf course where he visited yesterday. An article pointing out that he had delinquent taxes for two different years caused him to pay off.

While DDT talks big about security on the border, he hands out undeserved security clearances to friends and family like candy. Despite DDT’s denials, an 18-year White House security adviser, Tricia Newbold, has testified to the House Oversight Committee about 25 high-level security clearances for Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and others in spite of earlier rejection for blackmail, conflicts of interest, criminal conduct, drug abuse, financial problems, foreign influence, and other red flags. Since DDT overturned these rejections, applicants are no longer required to have credit checks. Newbold reported that her direct manager, Carl Kline, overruled her denials and retaliated against her when she objected, including a 14-day suspension without pay.

Newbold, who has dwarfism, said when she raised concerns, Kline retaliated by placing essential files up high, out of her physical reach. On The Daily show, Trevor Noah called out the “middle school bullies who were put in charge of America’s government” and urged security specialist Tricia Newbold to fight back. Kline has been subpoenaed to testify before the Oversight Committee.

Kushner made over 40 revisions to his original financial disclosures and added millions of previously undisclosed assets, including financial ties to Russia in the months following his appointment as presidential adviser. Public reporting shows that he has an extremely close relationship with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and received financial help from Qatar. Last month, Kushner’s company sought a $1.5 billion loan from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and in 2018, a private equity billionaire leveraged loans for access to the White House. Although Kushner was denied access to top-secret documents last year, he regained his top security clearance in May 2018.

Cummings has not publicly announced the 25 people on Newbold’s list, but the committee prioritized Kushner and eight other current and former officials:

John Bolton: recent interaction with Russian nationals that may not have been reported.

Ivanka Trump: Missed deadline for filing financial reports to the Office of Government Ethics and use of personal email account for government purposes.

Michael Flynn: contacts with foreign officials; misleading information about a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. that he denied; and secret lobbying campaign on behalf of the Turkish government.

Rob Porter: abuse of two ex-wives.

Sebastian Gorka.

K.T. McFarland: deception to the Senate about knowledge about Flynn’s contacts with Russia.

John McEntee (DDT’s personal assistant for his first year): concerns about finances and gambling. (He is now senior adviser for DDT’s campaign.)

Robin Townley (top aide to Flynn).

In another dismal security risk, a Chinese woman with two passports, four cellphones, a laptop, a hard drive, and a thumb drive containing malware gained access to Mar-a-Lago while DDT’s wife and son were on the premises and he was nearby playing golf. Yujing Zhang lied her way past the Secret Service agents and wasn’t caught until she was approached by a receptionist inside. She told security officials that she wanted to go to the swimming pool and was believed to be the relative of a member named Zhang. Experts have worried about the lack of security at the Winter White House, as DDT calls his resort. In 2017, Mar-a-Lago guests and wait staff surrounded DDT and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they talked about North Korea’s ballistic test. DDT called the latest problem “a little fluke.”

A third judge has ruled against Wilbur Ross’ citizenship question on the 2020 census as he also faces congressional hearings and a Supreme Court appearance. “Unreasonableness,” “woefully deficient,” and “improper” were just a few of the terms in U.S. District Judge George Hazel’s 119-page opinion. Ross, 81, showed himself so pathetically incapable of testifying that he “declined” to appear before the Appropriations Committee.  He was replaced with an empty chair.

Last fall, DDT preened himself for making a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA after his heavy criticism about that agreement during his campaign. His new agreement won’t exist, however, without congressional approval, and on April 19 the International Trade Commission will release its report on the effects of the new NAFTA’s version. Experts predict little positive impact for the U.S. and question whether little change is worth the effort. Even worse could be a negative or mediocre conclusion about DDT’s agreement.

DDT exhibited fear about the loss of his and other GOP congressional 2020 elections by telling House Republicans to be “more paranoid than they are” about vote counting. At the NRCC spring dinner, he suggested the elections that “went Democrat” were rigged:

“I don’t like the way the votes are being tallied… You don’t like it either, you just don’t want to say it because you’re afraid of the press.”

Last November, DDT said without evidence that Florida’s ballots were “massively infected” and talked about “electoral corruption” in Arizona. Before the 2016 election, he said he might not “give up peacefully” if he lost.

DDT’s approval ratings in public polling range around 40 percent, but he would hate even more a private E-score compiled to determine the level of personalities’ appeal for television audiences for marketing executives and advertisers. On over 40 personality and physical attributes, DDT scores high on “aggressive, “mean,” “insincere,” “confident,” and “creepy” but between 0 and 4 percent for “sexy,” “impartial,” “handsome,” and “physically fit.” His overall strong positive appeal is 14 percent compared to his 39 percent of overall strong negative appeal. Tracking stopped in 2015.

March 3, 2019

GOP Values Reflected in People They Choose

Michael Cohen’s testimony this week uncovers the nature of the man who has been elected president of the United States, but it also clearly shows the nature and values of the people who support Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). During the hearing, Republicans constantly called Cohen a liar—sometimes a “pathological liar”—yet ignored the pathological liar who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office. Republicans said almost nothing to refute what Cohen said but repeated, ad nauseam, that Cohen had admitted to lying to Congress and to committing multiple felonies.

Before the testimony, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is not a member of the Oversight Committee allowed to question Cohen, sent a threatening tweet that attempted to intimidate Cohen. DDT even called to praise Gaetz for his action, which raises the question of whether DDT fed Gaetz negative information about Cohen. Gaetz, Jim Jordan (R-OH), and other Republicans decided 18 months ago to actively undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation through reinvestigating Hillary Clinton and the origins of the FBI investigation of Flynn and other DDT associates as well as smearing the FBI.

Sean Hannity, Fox propagandist and DDT’s BFF, said that Cohen had told him that DDT had nothing to do with the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels for a secret affair. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) tweeted:

“Sean Hannity is now volunteering himself as a witness. I look forward to his testimony.”

National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss said, “Hannity just made himself a witness in a congressional inquiry and the SDNY [Southern District of New York] probe.”

The people who DDT selects to surround him and who are confirmed by the Republicans in the senate demonstrate their own values. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continually tries to destroy public education, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney wanted to destroy consumer protection, and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wanted to destroy public lands. Former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt took over from Zinke, and former pharmaceutical executive leads the Department of Health and Human Services. The replacement for former Secretary of Defense James Mattis is former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has been accused of protecting a sex trafficker who molested teenage girls.

Shannon Lee Goessling, DDT’s pick for director of the Office of Violence against Women at DOJ, is the most recent example of DDT’s desire to select appointees imminently unsuitable for every position. She has fought to keep Alabama’s driver’s license exams only in English, bringing concerns that she would provide domestic violence resources in any non-English languages as well as probability that she could not handle policies for survivors’ immigration statuses and eligibility for public support. Also questionable is her respect for cultural differences in domestic violence. Goessling has also opposed marriage equality and advocates greater gun ownership to prevent violence against women, perpetuating the myth that women with guns can prevent “a completed rape.” According to a study, firearms in the home are more likely to be used against a woman and/or her family than as defense against outside intruders. Victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abusers have access to firearms. Her history is obviously anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-racial justice, and anti-activists opposing sexual violence.

Andrew Wheeler, who became acting EPA director and is now confirmed for a permanent position, came from the coal industry, the largest water polluter responsible for 73 percent of toxic water contamination in the U.S. Last August, Wheeler planned to weaken automobile fuel economy standards before he destroyed a power plant regulation that, according to the EPA, will cause 1,400 more premature deaths each year. Scientists from 13 federal agencies, including the EPA, confirmed findings that U.S. temperatures will be nine degrees higher within less than a century, but Wheeler refused to recognize the study’s validity without reading it. In December, he recommended loosening carbon dioxide emissions reductions at coal-fired power plants and finished 2018 by announcing that he will promote the release of mercury and other dangerous pollutants from coal-fired plants. A recent Wheeler project is to slow down the elimination of toxic, cancer-causing “forever chemicals” contaminating drinking water across the country. Wheeler was confirmed by 52 to 47: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined all Democrats except Krysten Sinema (AZ) who did not vote. In 2017, Wheeler had held a fundraiser for John Barrasso (R-WY), who presided over the confirmation.

For the first time in history, the Senate confirmed a federal judge over the opposition of both senators from the appointee’s home state. Eric Miller’s lifetime appointment to the 9th Circuit Court was completed after a brief hearing during a congressional recess with only two GOP committee members present. Miller does not agree with the U.S. Constitution that all children born in the U.S., even those of undocumented immigrants, should have U.S. citizenship and made his name fighting the rights of Native Americans. Two prominent Native American organizations, the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund, objected to Miller’s confirmation—only the third time that either group has opposed a federal judicial nominee. Miller, however, fits both DDT’s requirements: young and bigoted.The Senate was close to this historical first with the nomination of Oregon’s Ryan Bounds until the one black GOP senator, Tim Scott (SC), opposed Bounds because of his previous racist writings. Last November, McConnell said, “Confirmation is a political decision based on who controls the Senate.” To him, party is all and democracy is gone.

As Shanahan comes to the government from Boeing, DDT’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley goes to Boeing’s board of directors. She joins 19 former high-level military officers hired by Boeing after their retirement. Lockheed Martin, builder of the notoriously dangerous F-35, tries the same strategy: in just 2018, the contractor hired 55 former senior government officials as executives, directors, or lobbyists. Former employees for Lockheed include Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and John Rood, undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who lied about the reasons for and methods of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, violated his ethics agreement when he inaccurately reported stock holdings on his 2018 financial disclosure form. He reported selling stock that he kept. The refusal to certify Ross’ report has never happened before, but the Ethics Office had earlier warned Ross about his “failure to comply with his ethics compliance agreements.” In 2018, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, asked then-AG Jeff Sessions to review Ross’s disclosures for “potential criminal violations.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson plans 17 EnVision Centers, as a one-stop place for low-income residents needing social services such as job-placement programs and education. Unfortunately, he didn’t designate any funding for his plan.

Ryan Zinke, who resigned from his Secretary of Interior gig at the end of last year in the hopes of not being investigated, may face a grand jury for lying to federal investigators about not granting commercial casino petitions by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. The Connecticut tribes’ lawsuit claims that Zinke caved to GOP Nevada legislators, Rep. Mark Amodei and then Sen. Dean Heller who has received large contributions from MGM Resorts International. The government is not commenting on Zinke’s other scandals, including at least 17 ethics probes.

As if one Bill Barr in the administration isn’t bad enough, his son-in-law, Tyler McGaughey, will leave the DOJ to join the White House council where he will “advise” DDT on legal issues—presumably the Russia investigation. The jobs seem to “intersect” (aka provide a conflict of interest). Barr’s oldest daughter, Mary Daly, will leave the DOJ for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to give Dad more heads-up about Russia.

After the military concluded—several years ago—that climate is a serious national security threat, DDT appointed William Happer to lead his Committee on Climate Security to refute his own agencies’ research. Happer claimed that carbon pollution benefits people and compares scientific evidence that carbon dioxide causes global warming to Nazi “propaganda” like “demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” He calls science a “cult.” An article from the New York Times lists disasters from climate change in the near future.

DDT found a replacement for Heather Nauert, who resigned as acting ambassador to the UN for illegally hiring a nanny after Nikki Haley resigned. Kelly Knight Craft, Ambassador to Canada and another science denier, has no qualifications to recommend her, but she and her husband donated millions of dollars to DDT’s presidential campaigns. They are also from Kentucky, and Craft has been “highly recommended” by other Kentuckians Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, who is also Transportation Secretary.

In selecting the most unqualified ambassadors in modern history, DDT chooses those who donated almost as much money to his campaign as the ambassadors picked by Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama in their nine presidential terms.

The only people worse than DDT in his appointments are the Republicans—and a few Democrats—who confirm them for lifetime positions. Their values go from simple reward of incompetence to sinking deep into corruption and fraud.

December 8, 2018

The Ins and Outs of DDT’s World

After months of rumors that John Kelly, chief of staff to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), would depart the White House, the latest comments that the two of them were no longer speaking bore fruit. DDT announced that Kelly would be out of the House by the end of the year, probably to be replaced by 36-year-old Nick Ayers, currently VP Mike Pence’s chief of staff. As with other DDT’s changes in personnel, he’s looking for someone who won’t disagree with him. Less than 17 months ago, which DDT called “almost two years,” optimists hoped that Kelly would curb DDT’s unruly impulses, but Kelly had his own problems of lying and refusing to back down on fact-checks of his falsehoods, specifically his attacks on Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL). Kelly also supported Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the family separation travesty at the U.S.-Mexico border. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner will be delighted to see the last of Kelly, although he is also testifying in Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Other openings also give DDT a chance to appoint more high-level officials. With the failure of Matt Whitaker as acting AG because of his criminal activities, DDT found a more confirmable AG candidate with the same credentials as Whitaker—supports the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, wants to investigate Hillary Clinton, believes that Robert Mueller’s investigation is wrong, and has a pattern of handing out pardons for the president. Bill Barr, AG for George H.W. Bush, considers Jeff Sessions an “outstanding attorney general” and gave pardons for H.W.’s friends implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Pro-lifers are also delighted that Barr opposes Roe v. Wade. He also supports harsh drug laws and mass incarceration. Barr can protect DDT with his belief that the executive branch should oppose attempt from Congress to obtain executive data, a position that Republicans will approve. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) called Barr “a man whose writings endorse the anti-democratic notion that the president is effectively royalty, unaccountable to laws, the Constitution, or constraint by Congress.” He added that Barr “supported unconstitutional surveillance of Americans … and advocated for the use of torture.”

Another, far more unlikely, DDT appointment is Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman, to replace Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador for the United States. A former long-time employee for the Fox network, Nauert had no experience in foreign policy, government, or politics until DDT put her into the State Department in March 2017. Twenty years ago, she was hired among many other young female cable personalities to publicize the Bill Clinton scandal with Monica Lewinsky. Bill Shine, now White House deputy chief of staff for communications after he was forced to leave Fox for his handling of sexual misconduct, brought Nauert to Fox. She explained her popularity by saying, “It’s more interesting to see a young person talking about issues than a big, old, fat white guy.”

On the Fox network, sometimes as host of Fox & Friends, Nauert complained about migrant children bringing “disease” into the U.S., ranted about “illegals,” and lament As a talking head on Fox News, she peddled the Benghazi conspiracy, claimed that immigrant children are bringing “disease” into America, railed against “illegals,” and protested about “sharia law … now changing everything” in the United States because a Minnesota YMCA accommodated Somali-American Muslim girls during swimming class.

Nauert is known for her gaffes. Last June, she gave the D-Day invasion attacking German forces in World War II as an example of the “strong relationship with the government of Germany.” Nothing about the German reunification in 1990 and the end of the Cold War. Most recently, she posted a photograph of herself cheerfully smiling in front of the Saudi Royal Court while she represented the United States on a “fact-finding mission” into the torture and dismemberment U.S. resident and WaPo journalist orchestrated by Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam. During the same time, her boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also grinned and laughed with MBS. [visual]

In talking about why Nauert is “clearly not qualified” for the job, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said:

“Our foreign policy is a mess, and the president was laughed at in his last speech before the U.N. I’m not sure anybody would advise him that the way to correct all his mistakes is to put a Fox & Friends anchor as our top ambassador to the United Nations…. These days it seems that the most important qualification is that you show up on Donald Trump’s TV screen, and if you’re successful in that endeavor, then you seem to be a top candidate to get a whole bunch of top positions in the U.S. government.”

Peter Baker and Michael M. Grynbaum wrote about DDT’s reshaping the role of the ambassador, a position that became part of DDT’s Cabinet at Nikki Haley’s insistence:

“If confirmed, Ms. Nauert may serve more as a public face for the administration than as a policymaker, leaving Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, to dominate decision-making back in Washington. Many in Washington saw the appointment as a way for Mr. Bolton to consolidate power.”

Even an opinion piece in The Hill, a conservative publication, disagreed with DDT’s choice with the understatement that Nauert is not “one of America’s top diplomats,” that the choice is “downright silly.” Chances are good that DDT selected Nauert to downgrade the U.S. involvement in the UN.

Another new DDT nominee is Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley for the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. An odd choice, Milley disagrees with several DDT positions. Milley has said:

  • The duty of soldiers and officers is to the U.S. Constitution, not any political party or figure.
  • Russia and China are the most dangerous potential foes; “the faint clouds of a coming storm are visible on the horizon.”
  • Korea is “the most dangerous near-term threat to the U.S.”
  • Barring new transgender recruits from enlisting has no military rationale. Earlier this year, he testified year that he’s “received precisely zero reports of issues of cohesion, discipline, morale and all those sorts of things” as a result of the presence of transgender troops.

Like DDT, Milley does believe in a big military budget. He said:

“Failure to pass the budget, in my view as an American citizen and the chief of staff of the United States Army, constitutes professional malpractice.”

One of DDT’s judicial nominees, Thomas Farr, may lose a confirmation for the fourth time despite VP Mike Pence’s vote to advance him. Known for his racist positions on segregation and voter suppression, Farr alienated even Tim Scott (SC), the GOP’s only black senator, who wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal to keep Farr from representing a region with 30 percent black population.

“I am saddened that in the editorial “Democrats and Racial Division” (Dec. 1) you attempt to deflect the concerns regarding Thomas Farr’s nomination to the federal bench. While you are right that his nomination should be seen through a wider lens, the solution isn’t simply to decry ‘racial attacks.’ Instead, we should stop bringing candidates with questionable track records on race before the full Senate for a vote. […]

“We must not seek to sow the seeds of discord, but rather embrace the power of unity. Simply put, if the Senate votes on a candidate that doesn’t move us in that direction, I will not support him or her. Our country deserves better.

After voting to confirm over 99 percent of DDT’s judicial nominees, many of them racist, Scott finally drew a line when he refused to follow his party to confirm Farr. Scott’s white cohorts have not reached that line yet; they continue to support nominees with “questionable track records on race.”

Robert Wilkie, VA Secretary, one of these “questionable” appointments, praised Confederate President Jefferson Davis as a “martyr to ‘The Lost Cause'” and an “exceptional man in an exceptional age.” He also called abolitionists who opposed slavery “radical,” “mendacious,” and “enemies of liberty” and said the Confederate “cause was honorable.”

Race isn’t the only line that the administration crosses:

  • Karen Budd-Falen, an ally of right-wing extremist Cliven Bundy who led an armed standoff with federal officials, is the deputy solicitor for Parks and Wildlife working on issues related to endangered species, wildlife refuges, and national monuments.
  • Adrian Zuckerman, nominee for Romanian ambassador, was sued for sexual harassment by his former secretary.
  • Lane Genatowski, nominee to head a cutting-edge research program in the US Department of Energy (DOE), is personally invested in various natural gas-based utilities and gas pipeline companies.
  • Andrew Smith, head of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, has over 120 conflicts of interest after working for a law firm with a huge number of corporate clients including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Uber.

Almost all DDT employees are endangered species except his family. The latest one to surface is DDT’s vice president. Trump’s 2020 strategy meeting last Monday questioned whether Pence should be on the ticket because he “doesn’t add anything.” DDT has been questioning Pence’s loyalty for weeks, and advisors are pushing DDT to replace Pence with Nikki Haley. Pence has spent years lying for DDT, covering for him, and swallowing criticisms. But DDT has no loyalty to others: he just demands it for himself.

August 9, 2018

Lack of Transparency in Agency Control

Filed under: Congress — trp2011 @ 12:02 AM
Tags: , , , ,

Although the Senate has blocked very few of nominees by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), some of his appointments don’t require confirmation. Such is the case of actor Steven Seagal, the new special envoy to Russia, an unpaid position with the goal of working with “humanitarian issues” and improving ties between the two countries. Seagal admires Vladimir Putin, calling him “one of the great living world leaders,” and defends Russia from statements that it interfered in U.S. elections. Several women including Portia di Rossi, Julianna Margulies, and Jenny McCarthy have accused Seagal of sexual misconduct. Two other women claimed that Seagal had sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers.

Robert Wilkie, former aide to late GOP Jesse Helms (R-NC), has recently been confirmed as head of Veterans Affairs. In his work for Helms, Wilkie supported the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Confederate flag while belonging to Sons of Confederate Veterans. Wilkie also opposed equal pay for women when he worked for Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and suggested that women graduate from high school before they receive welfare. As executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party in 1996-1997, the anti-LGBTQ Wilkie played a part in developing DDT’s transgender ban. Wilkie’s confirmation vote of 86-9 was the first time that any VA Secretary had received opposition votes. One of his goals is to privatize health care for veterans.

Wilkie’s confirmation may not run the VA, however, because three DDT friends and Mar-a-Lago members are actually calling the shots in the agency, according to information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor who runs “concierge” medical care; Ike Perlmutter, chairman of Marvel Entertainment; and Marc Sherman, lawyer, steer policies at the VA, make personnel decisions, and tell its officials what to do although none of them has served in the U.S. military or government—or been nominated and/or confirmed. The secret Mar-a-Lago Crowd, as they are known, have neither accountability nor oversight but push their pet causes and demand that they run everything. One proposal is to have private health care executive tell the VA what services should be outsourced to the private health care providers. Before David Shulkin, the former VA director, left, he communicated with the triumvirate on his private cellphone and with his private email address, breaking federal records laws as people have constantly told Hillary Clinton. The “Crowd” decided to get rid of Shulkin because of differences in opinion regarding how to improve the VA’s electronic record-keeping software. Wilkie is currently the pet of the threesome, but they can always decide to get rid of him too.

Scott Hutchins, the pesticide executive appointed as the chief scientist for the USDA, could be the third person to switch from Dow Chemical’s pesticide/seed division to make high-level federal decisions. Of the first two, one leads USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, and the other, a lobbyist for Dow, has been confirmed as undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. As pesticide promoter, Hutchins would control the USDA’s $2.9 billion research budget. Dow Chemical donated $1 million to DDT’s inaugural committee, leading to a variety of governmental favors for the company. DDT’s last nominee for Hutchins’ position, Sam Clovis, had to withdraw his name after publicity about his involvement in the Russia scandal.

Scott Pruitt’s scandals may no longer be a focus of the EPA, but its new acting secretary, Andrew Wheeler, faces his first lawsuit and call for an ethics probe from repeated concerns about conflicts of interest. The former coal lobbyist had at least three meetings with previous clients during his first month and participated in events including the head of a company that he was prohibited from working with. Wheeler’s next lawsuit may come from DDT’s insistence that he roll back California’s waiver to control greenhouse emissions. Seth Meyers has provided an update on Wheeler’s EPA leadership—rolling back coal industry regulations so that companies can more easily “dispose” of toxic coal ash waste. A member of the EPA board of science advisers, Robert Phalen, thinks that our air is too clean.

In the past four months, DDT has named 69 new appointees, some of them awful and the rest worse. Check here for an overview.

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of the Commerce Department, may have replaced Scott Pruitt as the biggest creature among DDT’s swamp pets. In justifying Ross’ appointment, DDT explained, “In these positions, I just don’t want a poor person.” The conservative publication Forbes has explained why Ross is so wealthy: he’s a “grifter.” A former Ross employee settled a $4 million lawsuit against his old boss two weeks before the trial, in which he alleged that “Ross stole his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to cover it up with bogus paperwork.” Other allegations against Ross go from refusal to pay workers to a pattern in which he typically stole a few million from a number of people that totaled up to $120 million. Dan Alexander reported:

“Those who’ve done business with Ross generally tell a consistent story, of a man obsessed with money and untethered to facts. ‘He’ll push the edge of truthfulness and use whatever power he has to grab assets,’ says New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross’ former colleagues is more direct: ‘He’s a pathological liar.’”

Ross’ company lost money in a rising stock market and got into trouble by overcharging investors on underperforming funds. A lawsuit claims that he illegally charges management fees from current and former company executives as well as outside clients. He also kept the portion of fees for serving on the boards of his firm’s portfolio companies instead of rebates to investors as required. When he sold part of the company, Ross managed to bolster it up and reap an undeserved price through higher evaluation. Ross also falsified his situation on a sworn document almost nine months, asserting he had divested all the assets as promised but still owned between $10 million and $50 million worth of stock in WL Ross’ parent company, Invesco. He waited to sell his shares to make more than $1.2 million.

Forbes claims that Ross lies about how much money he has, sometimes inflating the sum into the billions. A fair guess could be $700, although he cheats on what should be small amounts to him such as the $73,000 stake in Air Lease. He sold the shares a year after he promised to carry out the transaction. Investors claims that heads of private equity firms always know what they own, but Ross always claims ignorance.

Jake Johnson wrote:

“Wilbur Ross is a cartoon stereotype of a Wall Street fat cat with no interest in anyone but himself. He has shady ties to Russia and China, serious business conflicts, and a history of cheating people out of their homes.”

Ross maintains significant financial conflicts of interest, according to the Forbes investigation, and shorted stock on a Putin-related shipping company before share prices dropped because of an imminent negative story about his personal connection with the company. His investment conflicts also include companies co-owned by the Chinese government and a Cypriot bank in the Mueller investigation and in the industry Ross is investigating. Forbes reported that Ross has a history of lying and dodge questions about assets and holdings by claiming that he has divested when he actually set up trusts and handed assets to his family. Ross’ connection with the Cypriot bank gives him strong ties to Russian oligarchs, including Viktor Vekselberg who gave Michael Cohen’s consulting business over $500,000.

As co-founder of the Bank of Cyprus, a mail drop for moving Russian money to real estate “purchases” in the U.S., Ross may appear in Robert Mueller’s investigations. His partner, Dmitry Rybolovlev gave DDT $100 million for a $40 million property in Florida. Paul Manafort used Ross’ bank for funds funneled from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska with the pretense of a “loan.”

Firings:

Reagan Hedlund, Melania Trump’s policy aide, has been fired, but no one is explaining why. She was in charge of such programs as the “Be Best” anti-bullying initiative. The departure further shrinks the First Lady’s office of ten staff members.

The Future:

Hope Hicks, ex-girlfriend of and White House defense author for DDT’s fired aide Rob Porter for domestic abuse, left the White House soon after that debacle closed, but she was seen boarding Air Force One to travel with DDT to his Ohio campaign rally. Hicks resigned the day after she told the House Intelligence Committee that she told “white lies” on her job. DDT’s encounter with Hicks might be considered witness tampering because she testified about helping to draft DDT’s original statement on his son’s Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 at a time when DDT is frequently tweeting about the meeting. Hicks said that she is willing to become DDT’s chief of staff although John Kelly said that he is staying until the end of DDT’s four-year term.

It’s the summer doldrums while the Senate tries to put together enough Republicans to push through DDT’s judicial nominees. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) slowed down the process when he left Washington. His temporary departure left the Judiciary Committee at a 10-10 contest between Dems and the GOP. As for moving Brett Kavanaugh toward the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) requested his records from the National Archives. When it couldn’t meet McConnell’s August 15 deadline, he said “never mind” to getting three years of records on him while he was White House staff secretary. The Dems is trying a different route, filing a Freedom of Information Act, something that has never happened before.

Polling on Kavanaugh becoming a justice doesn’t bode well.

July 20, 2018

DDT’s Personnel: People Come, People Go

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 11:27 PM
Tags: , , ,

The shiny object of Russia distracts the media from appointments of federal officials by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), but he and the GOP senators continue to move the United States back into a 19th century known for its racism, sexism, and Puritanical Christian control.

Nominees:

Andrew Oldham, Texas’ Gov. Greg Abbott’s top legal adviser, slipped into the 5th U.S. Circuit Court with a 50–49 vote approval. DDT made him the fourth alumnus of Texas AG office to join the appeals court for Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the past 18 months. Oldham made news by refusing to say whether the famous desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided. About Oldham, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote:

“As his record clearly shows, he has worked to restrict and undermine voting rights, immigrant rights, women’s access to reproductive care, environmental protection, and gun safety. Even more concerning is his potential influence on current litigation in the Fifth Circuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. If confirmed, Mr. Oldham could be a deciding vote to undermine healthcare access for millions of people.”

At 40 years of age, Oldham will be making conservative decisions for up to a half century. He is the 23rd appeals court judge confirmed since DDT was inaugurated.

The Senate panel moved seven more judges to the Senate floor, four of the nominees for federal appeals courts:

  • Britt Grant (11th Circuit Court): helped draft an amicus brief to strike down the Voting Rights Act and another that challenged protection from deportation for people in the country with children who are citizens or lawful permanent residents.
  • David Porter (3rd Circuit Court): opposed the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act and lacks support of one of his state’s (Pennsylvania) senators.
  • Marvin Quattlebaum (4th Circuit Court): has limited experience practicing before appellate courts.
  • Julius Richardson (4th Circuit Court): little opposition.
  • Roy Altman and Jude Rodolfo Ruiz (U.S. District Courts in Florida); Raul Arias-Marxuach (U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico)

Brian Benczkowski, confirmed to run the criminal division of the Department of Justice, previously worked for Alfa Bank, the biggest Russia bank and one with ties to Vladimir Putin. His new position gives him the opportunity to look at the Mueller investigation and the chance to delay or deny the approvals, according to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Another problem would be if he passes along information to the Russians.

Kathy Kraninger, DDT’s nominee to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is his weapon to kill any remaining assistance for U.S. consumers. She lacks any experience or interest in consumer protection or financial services and resisted efforts to provide documentation about DDT’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies, the government response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and HUD’s ongoing affordable housing problems when she oversaw a $250 billion budget within seven Cabinet departments and 30 federal agencies. Kraninger’s closeness to acting director and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney will keep him in charge of the agency he wants to eliminate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) issued a 14-page report about Kraninger’s “record of failure” in an examination of the agencies she supervises for the OMB.

Withdrawn: 

Ryan Bounds, DDT’s nomination for the 9th Circuit Court, has been withdrawn for lack of votes and with DDT’s support. An assistant U.S. attorney for Oregon, Bounds failed to receive approval of either the state’s senators. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) brought up Bounds’ earlier writing that ridiculed multiculturalism and criticized anti-racism groups. Bounds made the situation worse by omitting references to these writings in the materials he submitted for his confirmation.

Resignations:

Jennifer Arangio, a top National Security Council official, left after disagreeing with officials such as Stephen Miller over the immigration policy. Several members have bailed the agency after John Bolton took over. Below are some other DDT casualties up to the date of Scott Pruitt’s resignation. 

Jeffrey Tricoli, senior FBI official and expert in cyber intelligence, has left his position as one of the two leaders of the agency’s election-meddling task force. There is no indication of a replacement.

Four members of an advisory council for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quit because of DDT’s “zero tolerance” policy, calling it “morally repugnant, counter-productive and ill-considered.” Two of the members sent additional letters condemning such policies as the Muslim bans, the border walls, and the elimination of the DACA program.

Scott Pruitt, the highest profile resignation in July thus far, left the EPA after a long list of ethics abuses and at least 18 federal investigations. DDT said that he will “go on to great things.” Pruitt may run for Senate or Oklahoma governor although his hopes for a presidential election may be gone. His charges for personal items, including some of his clothing, were phenomenal even in the time of DDT’s wastefulness. Pruitt’s mistreatment of his staff led to a large number of resignations from the EPA, some of them close associates he brought with him from Oklahoma. https://splinternews.com/were-still-finding-out-about-evil-shit-the-epa-did-unde-1827737702  The former EPA secretary’s legacy lives on in discovery of emails to Pruitt from his staff, attempting to protect him from the formaldehyde emissions of his new $9,500 desk. A few months later, Pruitt aides blocked public knowledge of an EPA report that the same chemical is “linked with leukemia, nose-and-throat cancer and other ailments.”

Replacements:

Andrew Wheeler, the new EPA acting director, continues the Environmental Plundering Agency’s destruction of lives: the most recent action by the former coal lobbyist is to pollute drinking water by rolling back coal ash storage regulations from 2015. The rule change also weakened testing standards for lead, cobalt, lithium, and molybdenum in adjacent waters. Highly toxic sludge from cooling coal ash that seeps into aquifers can contain arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium.

Bill Shine, new White House deputy chief of staff for communications and replacement for Hope Hicks, may be the most fitting appointment for DDT. Forced out of being co-president of the Fox network, Shine allegedly facilitated sexual harassment by Fox CEO Roger Ailes. He also covered up harassment complaints, persuaded employees to Reports about the scandals at Fox News indicate Shine was instrumental in keeping harassment complaints under wraps, rallying employees to protest accusers, and pushed women to confidential mediation so that the information would be kept secret. The Fox network is now the official state television outlet for the United States White House.

Darla Shine, Bill Shine’s wife, will also be welcome in the White House because of her racist tweets. For example, she questions why white people should be called racist for using the n-word if black people aren’t, defends the Confederate battle flag, and highlights black-on-white crime. She also defends DDT’s profane remarks African countries and his policy that Muslims be barred from the United States. Other of her tweets ridicule transgender people.

Shahira Knight, DDT’s tax adviser, has replaced Marc Short as the director of White House legislative affairs just as the senate faces confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court justice. Republican legislators said that she played an important role in getting the tax cuts for the wealthy and big business passed.

The clock is ticking down to future resignations. Chief of staff John Kelly is prime suspect for the next one, especially after rumors that, after DDT denied his own intelligence agencies in preference to Putin’s claim of not interfering in a U.S. election, Kelly told GOP legislators that they could protest DDT’s DDT’s false claims. Kelly has been making faces at DDT’s stupidity for months, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders can say only so many times that he wants a full breakfast instead of pastries. For a long time, people have said that Kelly will stay as long as he can help the nation, but DDT doesn’t listen to him. Eleven days from now, Kelly celebrates his one-year anniversary as DDT’s punching bag. He may pick that time to depart. On the other hand, he may be too stubborn to leave although Bill Shine is golden in the White House. [Right: A happy Kelly watches DDT leave for his weekend golfing vacation at Bedminster.]

DDT has said in the past that he doesn’t need a chief of staff. He certainly doesn’t make use of one. But it might be a way to bring back Hope Hicks, who he viewed “like a daughter,” or elevate Shine.

But then National Intelligence Director Dan Coats is also in trouble for defending the intelligence agencies and playing to the audience at the Aspen Security Forum. With DDT, you never know what direction the wind blows.

June 16, 2018

Court, Staff Problems for DDT

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) turned 72 this past week, trying to get out of lawsuits and scandals through a series of lies. Yet the information about his corrupt associates continues. More documents from DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen have been uncovered, including 731 pages of messages that he sent on such apps as WhatsApp and Signal that allow the content of the texts to remain encrypted. While getting data from a second phone, the FBI took 315 megabytes of data from one of his Blackberry phones. In addition, investigators reconstructed 16 pages of Cohen’s shredded documents. Yesterday was the deadline for Cohen to review hundreds of thousands of documents seized in the April raid of his office and home, and his lawyers disappeared yesterday, making him more likely to cooperate with the Russian investigation. The reason for the loss may be a fee dispute; Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said that Cohen’s bills could be as much as $500,000 per week. DDT’s campaign fund paid about $228,000 by the end of April, but it may have stopped because experts considered this to be potentially illegal.

Cohen is expecting to be arrested, and DDT is separating himself from his former friend. An opening gambit is DDT’s comment that anyone will lie to stay out of prison, insinuating that Cohen will take that tack. Leaks about Cohen’s legal problems may come from him in a signal to DDT that he will need a pardon. The pardon, however, would take away from using Fifth Amendment if he is called on to testify against someone else—like DDT. Meanwhile, however, Cohen fails in his search for a buyer for his expensive Trump building apartment and lawyers.

Cohen also failed in court to get a gag order on Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti to prevent him from speaking publicly about the lawsuit. Although Cohen had proclaimed “irreparable injury” to get the order, the judge regarded his request to be frivolous, “a complete joke and baseless” because Cohen “can’t deal with the truth, the facts, and the law.”

After several pundits said that Paul Manafort, former DDT campaign manager, should take a toothbrush with him to court, a judge ordered him to jail for tampering with witnesses while out on bail and waiting for trial on charges of federal conspiracy and money laundering. DDT again tried to minimize any relationship with Manafort and refused to talk about pardoning him. Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy, pled guilty to lying to Mueller’s investigators and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

A judge did rule has that Robert Mueller’s office must reveal names of alleged foreign agents who worked with former DDT campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

DDT’s charitable foundation is in legal trouble for its “political coordination” with his presidential campaign, among other issues, but a major problem could be “a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearance” from DDT via video in Kiev. Two weeks after DDT’s election, his foundation stated in a tax form that it may have been illegally benefited by the donation.

George Conway, husband of DDT’s counselor Kellyanne Conway, has come out with strong support of Robert Mueller’s legal authority in the Russia investigation in his essay “The Terrible Arguments against the Constitutionality of the Mueller Investigation.” A graduate of Harvard and Yale and a Republican, George Conway is an attorney who served as a clerk in the 2nd Circuit Court.

The DOJ has found several meetings between the NRA and elite Russians during the presidential campaign in its investigation about whether lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the organization. Influential Russians hosted NRA representatives in Moscow while the Kremlin hacked Democrat emails and put viral fake news on U.S. social media accounts to smear Hillary Clinton. Donating or using foreign money in U.S. election campaigns is a crime. The NRA, DDT’s biggest financial supporter, spent over $30 million, perhaps as much as $70 million, on his candidacy and has attempted to hide its expenditures and donors.

Russia also influenced the Brexit vote for the UK to leave the EU, and at least two of the British actors in this collusion also provided support for DDT’s campaign. Emails show that British businessman Arron Banks, the largest donor in UK history during the campaign for UK’s departure from the EU who denied Russian involvement, had several meetings with Russians during Brexit. Banks also admitted that he gave phone numbers for these Russians to people on DDT’s transition team. The defense of “witch hunt” is now becoming popular with Brexit supporter Banks.

DDT’s staff are still causing him trouble. DDT bragged about how “everybody wants to work in the White House,” but so few people want to work for him that officials are begging for employee candidates at a conservative job fair.

Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, plans to leave this summer. His leadership of DDT’s legislative agenda has not always been successful, and DDT has frequently criticized him while he goes out on his own to make his own unsuccessful deals. An example this past week is DDT’s claim that he wouldn’t sign the more moderate immigration bill to go before the House this coming week before declaring that he would sign either one of the bills that was passed. Two other communications staffers left the White House this week—Steven Cheung, director of strategic response, and Cliff Simms, now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s senior adviser. At least 18 of DDT’s 31 assistants—including six replacements—left their posts.

Another imminent high profile departure may be Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Asked about the possibility, DDT said that “at a certain point everyone sort of leaves, you have to leave.” Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah may also resign by the end of the year.

Three DOJ lawyers refused to support AG Jeff Sessions’ decision to not support the Affordable Care Act, but senior career Justice Department official Joel McElvain flat-out resigned. GOP Congress failed to repeal the law so Sessions will try to kill the ACA by not defending the law of the United States.

At the beginning of June, Rudy Guiliani yelled at his son for making out with his wife at the theater. Now 32-year-old Andrew Giuliani lost access to the White House without an escort despite his $77,000 a year job in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. Chief of staff John Kelly and others also won’t promote Andrew because he “subverts the chain of command” and has other workplace issues. Rudy Giuliani disappeared from media for over a week after his denigrating comments about Stormy Daniels appearance. Maybe because his current wife, Judith Nathan, went to the media about his affairs, one of them with married New Hampshire hospital administrator Maria Rosa Ryan.

Some jobs in the White House are vital, for example taping together documents that DDT regularly tears up in his ignorance of the law. Former records management analyst Solomon Lartey and Reginald Young Jr., each making over $60,000 a year, have been fired for no reasons from their positions to repair notes and memos that DDT tears up for preservation according to the Presidential Records Act. Other workers are still taping papers back together again.

Another important government job responsibility is to keep track of DDT’s loyalists—and a black list of those who seem less than loyal. Mari Stull, former food lobbyist and wine blogger and currently senior adviser at the State Department, maintains a list of government officials and employees of international organizations and agencies, examining social media for political disagreement and past support of any of President Obama’s policies. Included are people who work for such agencies as the World Health Organization and the United Nations. People on the black list are kept out of meetings, and her actions are causing three assistant secretaries of state—Molly Phee, Erin Barclay, and Nerissa Cook—to quit or change agencies.

DDT may manage one nomination this coming week, Kathy Kraninger as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Interim director Mick Mulvaney has already eliminated the “protection” part of the agency, so Kraninger’s lack of experience in finance, banking, and consumer issues is irrelevant. She will, however, follow Mulvaney’s leadership of no government and regulations while promoting business interests.

Little climate news hits the mainstream media these days, but WashPo has reported that the melting Antarctica’s ice sheet is annually dumping 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean which raises sea levels one-half millimeter a year, tripling in the last decade. There goes Miami—and a lot more East Coast homes.

June 10, 2018

People Come, People Go

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
Tags: , , , ,

A few appointments by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) focus only on protecting the wealthiest people, for example, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) interim director Mick Mulvaney’s firing his consumer advisory council, created to identify problems for people treated unfairly by financial firms. The majority of DDT’s picks, however, are selected for their anti-immigrant, pro-white nationalist, pro-evangelical positions.

Arrivals:

Steve Bannon’s friend Michael Pack, the proposed nomination to lead the Broadcasting Board of Governors, would disseminate DDT’s conservative views through federally funded media outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe in the nation’s biggest public diplomacy program. Its audience of 278 million people speaking 61 languages reaches over 100 countries. Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, DDT’s appointee already on the BBG told friends he wants to make the agency a “Bannon legacy.”

Fred Fleitz, John Bolton’s new chief of staff on the national security council and longtime senior staffer at Center for Security Policy, joins the anti-Muslim think tank in contending that mosques and Muslims are working to “Islamize” the U.S. in a “stealth jihad” taking advantage of pluralism and democracy. Hawk Bolton accused Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin of being a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a Russian “truther,” Fleitz claims that the U.S. intelligence reports about Russian election meddling was “rigged” and DDT should “pardon everyone” under investigation. Having published a book advocating aggression toward North Korea, Fleitz claims his concern is groups that promote hate.

Gary Bauer, DDT’s appointment for U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wants anti-LGBTQ and anti-Islam laws. He calls the left the American Taliban because they hate America. Bauer joins DDT’s “anti-immigrant army” that is “infiltrating every part of the federal government,” including agencies whose purposes include advocating for immigrants and refugees, according to Julissa Arce.

Richard Grenell, conservative ambassador to Germany, continues to offend his hosts. First he ordered Germany to stop trading with Iran; then he said he’ll work on policy, not diplomacy. In his latest interview with Breitbart, he said that he plans to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders.” Germany has demanded a formal explanation from the U.S. about the meaning of Grenell’s statement that he promised to use his office to help far-right nationalists take power in Europe. In his praise of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, connected to the Freedom Party created in the 1950s by a former Nazi officer, Grenell was described as behaving less like a diplomat than “an extreme-right colonial officer.” Political members in Germany and Belgium expressed a number of criticisms about Grenell, and some have recommended that he be expelled from German. All this after Grenell promised during his confirmation to stay out of German politics.

Called upon to explain why Grenell plans to “empower” Europe’s anti-immigrant conservatives, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said:

“We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany….  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany.”

On D-Day, 2,499 people from the United States were killed in the fight to liberate France from Nazi German forces. Grenell’s criticism of the “left” in Europe further strains relationships after DDT’s withdrawals from both Iran deal and the Paris climate accord before the imposition of tariffs on U.S. allies. Nauert’s later statements appeared to support Grenell’s comments.

Diane Foley, who ran a Christian organization operating two Colorado anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers,” or fake clinics, was quietly installed on Tuesday as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, where she will lead the office responsible for the Title X federal family planning program.

A list of White House staff changes.

Departures:

On the anti-climate change side, Scott Pruitt is hanging on to his job as EPA secretary despite almost daily scandals, but his staff is dropping like flies. Sarah Greenwalt, Scott Pruitt’s senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, Pruitt’s director for scheduling and advance, bailed, and Pruitt’s top public affairs official Liz Bowman left Pruitt last month for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who called Pruitt as “about as swampy as you get.” She voted for his confirmation after he promised to protect the ethanol industry. Other EPA resignations include Samantha Dravis, Albert Kelly, and Pasquale Perotta.

Greenwalt and Hupp had received inordinate raises that Pruitt lied about before he had to admit that he set their salaries. Hupp quit the day after Pruitt used her sister, Sydney Hupp, to try to get a franchise for Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn, with Chick-fil-A. Pruitt asked Hupp to email Dan Cathy, head of Chick-fil-A, asking for a meeting about to discuss “a potential business opportunity.” An earlier request was setting up a talk between Pruitt and the head of the non-profit organization Concordia who paid Marlyn $2,000 plus travel expenses to help organize the group’s annual conference nine months ago. The EPA started preparing Hupp’s resignation papers after she testified to the House about the personal tasks that she was asked to do for Pruitt, including buying a used mattress from the Trump Hotel.

Emails released from a Freedom of Information request show a large variety of Pruitt’s improper use of his staff. One of them concerns his assignment to his security detail to obtain a special moisturizer available for Ritz-Carlton hotels. Available online for $27.20 a bottle, the lotion has “sweet notes of ylang ylang, jasmine and uplifting bergamot.” Another responsibility for his security personnel, costing $3.5 million a year, is picking up dry cleaning.

Pruitt needs all the aides he can get. A judge has ordered him to submit evidence by July 11 that supports his position that humans are not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” He has missed an earlier deadline, calling the legal action “a trap” and a “fishing expedition.”

Kelly Sadler, the White House aide who claimed that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) vote didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway,” no longer has a job “within the Executive Office of the President.” She may not have completely disappeared: Kellyanne Conway indicated that she might find another job in DDT’s administration. While she still had her job, she blamed Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, of leaking her comment.

Sadler is not alone. White House deputy chief of staff Joseph Hagin, who organized the North Korea summit, is leaving as soon as he returns from the meeting with Kim Jong-Un.  Drew Maloney, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, has a new job in the finance industry. Also gone are Mark Inch, chief of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; Tom Ziemer, the National Security Council’s head of Global Health Security; Richard Johnson, the State Department’s acting assistant coordinator for Iran Nuclear Issues; and Cliff Sims, a special assistant to the president who oversees White House message strategy. An update of the departed DDT hires is here.

DDT can’t find anyone willing to take the associate AG position, third in charge at the DOJ and responsible for firing Robert Mueller if Rod Rosenstein won’t take action on this. Jesse Panuccio, acting associate AG since Rachel Brand left several months ago, would be acting AG if Sessions and Rosenstein were to leave. The DOJ is already missing permanent leaders for five DOJ units including criminal, civil, and tax divisions.

Problems:

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, named head of a commission to study school safety after the mass shooting at Parkland (FL), said that the commission will not study gun safety at schools. When Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked her why not, she said:

“We’re actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the murders on Valentine’s Day, tweeted:

“You just gave every parent who actually cares about school safety a reason to vote in November.”

DeVos said that the commission will also not look at best practices of foreign countries with much lower rates of gun violence. The school safety commission is composed of four Cabinet secretaries: DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. After criticism because the first commission meetings were not public and didn’t include teachers, school leaders, or students, the group had a listening session, but none of the commission members was present.

Confirmations for DDT’s nominees may slow down after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) put holds on Treasury nominee Isabel Patelunas and possibly other Treasury nominees. The Treasury Department has refused to give him materials about DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen and his firm’s relationship with Novartis and other clients.

One of DDT’s major appointments, Chief of Staff John Kelly, calls the White House a “miserable place to work,” and the question is how long he and other aides will remain. DDT is already serving as his own chief of staff, spokesman, and human resources manager.

 

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