Nel's New Day

September 27, 2019

DDT: Week 140 – The Unraveling in One Day

Horrifying news about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) pours out so fast that a day is like a week. Impeachment was the big news until late this afternoon when the Washington Post  reported DDT told two senior Russian officials in 2017 that he didn’t care about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States interfered in other countries election. DDT did it in the Oval Office at the same time he revealed highly critical information about ISIS obtained from Israel, information even withheld from allies. During the same meeting he gloated about firing former FBI Director James Comey to relieve personal problems for him and told the Russians he could have “a great relationship with you guys” except for “the press.” Records about this meeting may be hidden in the same location as DDT’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a computer reserve for covert operations. After the whistleblower complaint, John Eisenbert, White House deputy counsel for national security affairs and a national security legal adviser, directed the Zelensky transcript be put into the highest secret classified system although there was no reason that any of these documents be treated in this way.

White House officials tried to limit DDT’s conversations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian leader Vladimir Putin and secreted the ones that were made. A transcript of DDT’s call to MBS in the aftermath of Saudi Arabia’s torture and dismemberment of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi was never circulated although it had no sensitive national security secrets. Information about these calls may be with the Zelensky transcript. 

Today, three House committees—Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight—subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about contacts with Ukraine. The three chairs Eliot Engel (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told Pompeo refusal to comply with the subpoena would be obstruction forming an article of impeachment. They also deposed State Department officials in the next two weeks: former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch (October 2), U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker (October 3), Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent (October 7), Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl (October 8), and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland (October 10). Yesterday, DDT missed a deadline to provide information and documents about contacts with Ukraininan officlals. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) said that the investigation “will be centered” in the Intelligence Committee under Schiff.

Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, resigned his special envoy post after revelations that he connected DDT’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani with Zelensky’s right-hand man, Andriy Yermack, to investigate Joe Biden. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave Volker his job as a volunteer while he remained the head of the John McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University.

Giuliani canceled a paid appearance at a Kremlin-backed conference in Armenia next week after the media reported on his speech. Putin and other top Russian officials are expected to attend the two-day conference sponsored by Russia and Putin’s trade alliance, the Moscow-based Eurasian Economic Union.

The National Rifle Association acted as a “foreign asset” for Russia before the 2016 presidential election, according to a report from the Senate Finance Committee after an 18-month investigation. The NRA “provided the Russian nationals direct access to the Republican Party leaders at events including its Annual Winter Board Meetings and NRA Annual Meetings, and facilitated additional access to conservative organizations like the Council for National Policy, National Prayer Breakfast,” and other events. The report also described how NRA facilitated the infiltration of Russian agent Maria Butina and former Russian government official Alexander Torshin into domestic organizations and built relationships with Russian government officials including travel to Russia. NRA may have violated numerous tax laws and illegally promised access to U.S. officials in exchange for Russian business.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who bitterly fought laws to stop Russian hacking into voting systems, received $3.5 million for his Senate Leadership Fund from Len Blavatnik, business partner of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Blavatnik donated another $3.8 million to campaigns for GOP leaders and PACs.

A federal judge blocked the indefinite detention of migrant families, declaring it inconsistent with the 1997 Flores court settlement governing migrant children in U.S. custody.

The first House Republican is supporting an impeachment inquiry. Nevada’s Mark Amodei said that he wants the House to “put it through the process and see what happens.” That brings the total to 238—all others Democrats except for former Republican Justin Amash from Wisconsin who changed affiliation to independent this year. Five days ago, only 135 House members supported an impeachment inquiry. Only nine House Democrats are still opposed after Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, presidential candidate, caved.

Impeachment has consumed the media this week, the polls in favor are rising. Today’s Hill-HarrisX survey showed that support for proceedings have gone up 12 points in three months to 47 percent. The increasement is across both parties and within independents. A PBS-Marist poll puts impeachment support even higher at 49 percent, compared to 46 percent opposition.  

Even Russia is laughing at DDT about his extorting Ukraine to get him elected by investigating Joe Biden.

The Ukraine whistleblower scandal may have to compete with another one: according to a court filing, an IRS employee accused DDT of trying to interfere with the mandatory presidential audit system. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) wrote Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin about credible allegations of “evidence of possible conduct”—potential “inappropriate efforts to influence” the program.

A disaster for DDT is his losing control of the press with its continuing outpouring of damaging information toward him. His new press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, snarks mostly in writing, and no press conference has been held in the White House for over 200 days. He’s even losing the highly polarized Fox network where hosts attack others for demanding the truth on their shows. Fighting back against Shep Smith, Tucker Carlson tried to protect Joe diGenova, who DDT once considered hiring for his lawyer, after deGenova denied the federal election law cited above. Gabriel Sherman writes:

“A Trump identity crisis at Fox as Hannity frets, Lachlan Murdoch prepares for a post-Trump future, Paul Ryan whispers in Rupert’s ear, and Shep Smith and Tucker Carlson trade blows.”

For years, Fox controlled the message for the far-right audience, but Roger Ailes is gone and Rupert Murdoch is replaced by his son Lachlan. Months ago, DDT began bashing Fox, largely for its polls showing him under water, and Sean Hannity said that the whistle-blower’s allegations are “really bad.” Hannity supported CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, brother of New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo, after DDT called Chris “nuts” and showed a “total loss of control” in a heated argument at a bar. For four years, Fox avoided reporting on DDT’s negative side, but impeachment has created a “management bedlam” that “no one knows how to cover,” according to a Fox staffer. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace threatened to take Smith off the air if he attacks Carlson again. Former House speaker Paul Ryan, now on the Fox board, advised Lachlan Murdock to break with DDT, but others say that Fox must be loyal to DDT’s supporters.

Fox’s Chris Wallace said that the “spinning” from DDT’s defenders is “deeply misleading.” He didn’t directly name his Fox colleagues but laid out the case that the whistleblower complaint has been credible, disagreeing with the attempts of his host, Sandra Smith, to use DDT’s talking points. Stopping Smith’s reference to DDT’s quote that the whistleblower’s informants were “close to spies,” Wallace said:

“That is very, deeply troubling. These are people inside an administration that are saying that something was going on that they were very, deeply troubled by. To call them spies and to suggest that perhaps we should deal with them the way we’ve dealt with other people, with treason, which is in effect to execute them, really seems to be to strike at the very heart of what whistleblowers are all about.”

To Shep Smith, Wallace said:

“I always think reverse the situation. Whistleblowers who claim that Hillary Clinton had acted improperly during Benghazi. How would we have felt if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had accused them of treason? I think you have to consider it that way.”

Juan Williams joined the fray when he took umbrage with co-hosts on The Five who repeated DDT’s talking points.

DDT has already started a break with Fox by promoting farther-right OANN where people can find shows by such past politicians as Sarah Palin and gushing about its coverage. OANN is known for promoting conspiracy theories, and one of its “journalists” also writes for Russia’s Sputnik. Media Matters reports that “the network has a history of race-baiting and presenting anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion reporting.”

The news won’t stop: some lawmakers plan to meet during the next two weeks despite a scheduled congressional recess.

October 20, 2016

Trump Keeps Supporters, Loses GOP Politicians

Last night’s presidential debate was a redux of earlier ones. My partner and I bet how long Donald Trump would keep his promise of staying high: I said 20 minutes, and she went for 40 minutes. I won. At the 20-minute report, he started downhill and kept on sliding, just like the last two times. When he wasn’t slinging mud, Trump engaged in what the late Justice Antonin Scalia classified as “argle-bargle” to sound as if he knew what he was talking about. He didn’t.

The biggest headlines about the debate are that Trump won’t promise to accept the results of the election. People should “tune in” on Election Night to see what he had to say, according to the showman in his attempt to take media notice from his sexual assaults. [Note: today Trump may be softening on his claim, but no one is ever sure of his position on anything.]

Some of Trump’s more bizarre statements between snarls of “wrong!” and other interruptions:

“Justice Ginsburg made some very, very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people, many, many millions of people that I represent. And she was forced to apologize. And apologize she did. But these were statements that should never, ever have been made.” A Trump criterion for a Supreme Court Justice that they be nice to him and bragging about how he made one of them apologize—it’s all about Donald throughout the debate.

“We have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out.” Trump’s immigration plan using derogatory terms for Hispanics.

“[Russian President Vladimir Putin would] rather have a puppet as president of the United States.” Clinton’s comment when Trump rejected intelligence that Russia is hacking emails to sway the presidential election. Trump’s response: “No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet.”

“I didn’t even apologize to my wife who is sitting right here because I didn’t do anything. I didn’t know any of these women. I didn’t see these women. These women, the woman on the plane, I think they want either fame or her campaign did it and I think it’s her campaign.” Too much protesting?

“Nobody has more respect for women that I do, nobody.” Laughter from the audience.

“She’s guilty of a very, very serious crime. [Clinton] should not be allowed to run. And just in that respect I say it’s rigged.”

“I will look at [the election] at the time. I’m not looking at anything now.” Trump asked about accepting the election results. “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?” After asked a second time.

“Should have gotten it.” Trump’s interruption when Clinton said, “There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.”

“I sat in my apartment today on a very beautiful hotel down the street known as Trump…” Trump’s interrupted attempt at an infomercial as part of the debate.

“[Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad] is a bad guy. But you may very well end up with worse than Assad …. If she did nothing, we’d be in much better shape…. He’s just much tougher and much smarter than her and Obama.” Trump’s typical admiration for dictators.

“[Aleppo] has fallen, I mean, from any standpoint. What do you need, a signed document? I mean, from any standpoint.” Trump’s falsehood about the city under heavy shelling.

“Such a nasty woman.” Trump’s parting shot at Clinton. [This last one will become a meme for independent women!]

“I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad,” last night’s moderator, Fox network Chris Wallace, said after the huge debacle of Matt Lauer’s town hall in September. Even Wallace’s questions need a fact-checker.

Wallace falsely claimed that “the biggest driver of our debt is entitlements” and  pushed candidates toward a decision on a “grand bargain” when the funds disappear. He wrongly equated the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) analyses of Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s tax and economic policy proposals with the purpose of pushing them toward a decision on a “grand bargain” when the funds disappear. [The CRFB is operated by billionaire Pete Peterson, a member of Nixon’s cabinet, and shows that Wallace was wrong in his question.] Craig Harrington fact-checks the moderator in Media Matter with this chart showing the difference between the two candidates’ plans. Other fact-checking is also available here.  

debt-chart

Wallace also used the Fox fantasy that the “stimulus” created a sluggish economic recovery. The real problem with the stimulus package, according to noted economists, is that it was too small and too focused on tax cuts instead of target spending—both GOP-forced positions.

Other ways that Wallace tried to help Trump:

  • Opening the debate with conservative wedge issues on which Trump failed to score—Supreme Court, guns, abortion, and illegal immigration.
  • Attacking Clinton first and leaving the Trump negatives for later in the debate after people may have tuned out while leading into Trump issues with Wikileaks.
  • Framing the sexual assault question by questioning the truth of the women’s allegations by asking “why would [the women] make up these stories?
  • Trying to bail out Trump after he said he wouldn’t accept the election results by explaining why that was a bad idea and then asking him a second time.
  • Ignoring the debate ground rules by eliminating closing statements.
  • Failing to address issues such as climate change, equal pay, education, lifting people out of poverty, helping the middle class, collective bargaining rights, corporate personhood, money in politics, Wall Street abuses, etc.,etc.

Trump complained that Chris Wallace rigged the debate, but Trump couldn’t even handle the softballs that Wallace tossed him. Jason Easley called Wallace “the most lenient debate moderator towards Trump of the 2016 campaign.”

Last night may have been the first appearance of “Trump TV” when the GOP candidate livestreamed his debate coverage on his Facebook page, complete with advertising and commentary from retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Other guests included faithful surrogate Rudy Giuliani. Rumors of a Trump network emerged after a Financial Times report. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has supposedly “informally” approached investment bank LionTree about creating a television network after the election. Variety said that LionTree was not interested, and Trump would likely suffer from a lack of advertising.

GOP Trump-supporting candidates may lose their elections because of Trump’s performance—which was indeed just a performance. I believe that Trump doesn’t want to win the election: he wants to gather followers for his next television show. To him, the last 17 months have been preparation for the next big media deal, and winning the White House would ruin those plans. Trump may be a man without control, but last night he purposefully ruined chances of picking up more votes, his MO throughout his entire campaign. He doesn’t care that he’s bamboozled all those faithful supporters—including the white supremacists—who look to him as a leader into white nationalism and may incite violent riots throughout the country.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer described Trump’s behavior last night as “political suicide.” My partner said Trump did it out of stupidity; I said that he’s trying to throw his chances at the presidency. We’ll never know which of us is right, but in 20 days we’ll know whether we have to bow to King Trump. It comes down to the voters of the United States.

Those who have not had enough of the mud-wrestling presidential campaign can watch the two of them roast each other at the Al Smith Catholic charities dinner.

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