Nel's New Day

May 10, 2018

Recent Federal Departures

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , ,

The last two weeks have seen an inordinate number of people moved out of the government with very few arriving. (Another breakdown of disappearances from the White House.) One person did manage to keep his job.

Rev. Pat Conroy is back as U.S. House chaplain after a serious backlash to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) firing him. Ryan said that he was dissatisfied with Conroy’s “pastoral services,” but GOP evangelicals said that they wanted a Protestant instead of a Catholic in the job.  Conroy had prayed before the tax bill that lawmakers guarantee “there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” Ryan warned Conroy to “stay out of politics.” Because the chaplain is selected by a majority vote of House members, Ryan couldn’t fire anyone in that position. Conroy was sworn back in on May 8, 2018, almost seven years after his first swearing in on May 25, 2011 after a unanimous vote. His prayer this week when House members returned from their week off:

“As the members return to Washington, may they be encouraged and empowered by their constituents to be their best selves in serving in the people’s House. May the disagreements that seem to perjure give way to good faith efforts to find solutions to the issues facing our nation in a manner consistent with the great traditions of our republican form of government.”

New York AG Eric Schneiderman has resigned. The man who was supposed to try DDT if he pardoned himself from federal charges has been accused of emotionally and physically abusing at least four women. One person suggested for replacing Schneiderman is Alphonso David, a gay man whose immigrant parents sought asylum from a military coup in Liberia. Another possibility, former U.S. attorney and aggressive prosecutor Preet Bharara, was fired last year by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while Bharara was investigating former HHS Secretary Tom Price. At that time, DDT’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz patted himself on the back for the firing.

Thomas Homan, DDT’s pick for the head of ICE who enthusiastically attacked immigrants, has resigned because he feels left out of administrative decisions. HHS has consistently failed to provide necessary information for a confirmation hearing, and Homan decided to spend more time with his family. Or he may find a more lucrative job: his predecessor, Daniel Ragsdale, works for GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison and detention company. Under Homan, ICE forced separation of immigrant families in detention, tripled arrests of undocumented people without criminal records, prevented pregnant women in detention from appropriate health care, mistakenly arrested almost 1,500 people, and lost almost 1,500 immigrant children last year who were separated from their parents.

Dr. Jennifer Peña, VP Mike Pence’s doctor, disappeared as collateral damage from the controversy about DDT’s doctor, Ronny Jackson, that caused him to withdraw his name as nominee for VA Secretary. Last fall, she was among those who accused Jackson of workplace misconduct for possibly violating federal privacy protections in sharing medical details about Pence’s wife, Karen Pence.

Jackson is also gone as DDT’s personal physician. Also apparently gone are DDT’s medical records. Dr. Harold Bornstein, DDT’s former personal physician, said that DDT’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, who became director of Oval Office operations, seized all DDT-related medical records two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he prescribed hair growth medication for DDT. Schiller had no form authorizing his action, thereby violating HIPAA, a 1996 privacy health care law. DDT is using the Jackson scandal to attack Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), up for re-election this year, but Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), also on the Veterans Affairs Committee as chairman, called foul and brought out the story of Jackson violating Karen Pence’s federal privacy protections. No nominee for Veterans Affairs has appeared although last week’s rumors suggested John Kelly so that DDT could get rid of him as chief of staff.

Lawyer Ty Cobb left DDT’s legal team just as Rudy Giuliani came on. Giuliani unexpectedly quit his job with law firm Greenberg Traurig, that became irritated by Giuliani’s insinuation the firm pays hush money for clients without their knowledge.

Emmitt Flood, recently hired for the legal team, represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment in the late 1990s. DDT’s legal team has no member with a security clearance to handle information in the Russian investigation and Mueller’s negotiations. With 4,095 lawsuits before his election, DDT settled lawsuits since then about a campaign aide leaking to the press, fraud at his university, and a restaurant deal in Washington. His former campaign head has been indicted, three advisers including the one for national security have pled guilty to federal charges, and a porn star and an Apprentice star are suing him for defamation. His son-in-law may be investigated for a bank loan, and his personal lawyer has had his office raided for federal agents.

James Baker, FBI’s top lawyer, and Liz Page, legal adviser to former FBI director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe, have resigned. Baker will write for the Brookings Institution’s Lawfare blog.

EPA media aide John Konkus was the fourth aide to resign last week and the second in the media department. He follows resignations by EPA communications head, Liz Bowman and political aides Albert Kelly and Pasquale Perrotta as well as 700 other EPA employees. James Hewitt, son of Pruitt-defender Hugh Hewitt, columnist for Washington Post, and radio host for MSNBC remains at the agency. A friend of Pruitt, the elder Hewitt lobbied to clean up a toxic waste area near his California home. Scott Pruitt may be behind recent negative stories about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Elaine Plott reported in The Atlantic that Michael Abboud, one of Pruitt’s press team, passed these stories about Zinke to several media outlets after an Interior staffer worked with former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski to do the same for the EPA.  Pruitt has added a 14th investigation to his list of woes because he granted a financial hardship waiver to Carl Icahn’s oil refinery. The former DDT adviser left after he made more billions from his advice about investments. In this case, Icahn gains tens of millions of dollars from a regulation meant to help the environment and support corn farmers.

Michael Roman, the Koch brothers’ follower who was hired to vet judicial nominees for White House counselor Don McGahn, has left the WH sinking ship. Most people have never heard of Roman because he’s been secretive since he started working for DDT’s campaign. The primary requirement in selecting DDT’s nominees is loyalty to DDT by doing exactly what he wants and never having said anything negative about him. DDT picked Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State because he admired Tillerson’s swagger and business acumen, and he briefly chose Victoria Toensng and Josephn DiGenova because they defended him on television. Rob Porter, ousted for domestic abuse against two ex-wives, had no vetting file, and early choices only needed to be military generals. A White House official described DDT’s process as “ready, shoot, aim” because DDT announces his choices before they have been vetted. (A better description might be “shoot, ready, aim.”)

Gina Haspel, nominee for CIA director, threatened to withdraw her name last Friday, but DDT convinced her to stay. She worried about the confirmation hearing because she supported torture and destroyed videos showing U.S. torturing at a black site, the secret CIA detention facility in Thailand. Pressure during her hearings included questions from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a former prosecutor, especially the one about whether “the previous interrogation techniques were immoral.” Haspel tried to connect these techniques to preventing further attacks, something never proved. A review of her statements indicates contradictions: she stated that torture did not elicit useful information but believes that it helps prevent further attacks. She said that she wouldn’t restart the torture program but nothing about continuing it. She also said that she would not ask the CIA to do anything “immoral” but refused to answer a question about whether these “interrogations” are immoral. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement that “her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.” After McCain’s statements, Kelly Sadler, who helps manage talking points for DDT allies, said in a White House meeting with two dozen staffers that McCain’s statement “doesn’t matter, he’s “dying anyway.”

Despite the objections of the only senator who has ever been tortured, Haspel will probably be confirmed, joining Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton to become DDT’s triumvirate of war mongering. Other vile comments about McCain show the conservatives’ moral deficiency. Fox guest retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney tried to use McCain as an example of how torture works. He said:

“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is is those methods can work and they’re effective, as former vice president [Dick] Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”

A fact check with a great deal of evidence shows that McInerney’s claim, based on a false flyer to denigrate McCain during his presidential run, is wrong. The host of the program, Charles Payne, has issued an apology to McCain and his family, calling the comment “very false and derogatory.”

 

March 13, 2018

Fired by Tweet

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) once again avoided saying, “You’re fired!” by tweeting the name of a replacement for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. For almost 60 weeks, he has weaseled out of firing anyone, leaving it to others such as Chief of Staff John Kelly or driving people to resign through humiliation. Early this morning DDT tweeted:

“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”

According to Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein, Tillerson didn’t know he lost his position until he read the tweet. Goldstein said that Tillerson “did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason” for his firing, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve.” He added that Tillerson had “every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security.” Since then, Goldstein was fired, leaving only one permanent undersecretary out of six. The only one remaining plans to leave when his replacement is confirmed.

DDT said that Tillerson is gone because they don’t agree and that he picked Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director, because they do agree. Recently DDT and Tillerson disagreed about concerned the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Tulia, in Salisbury, England. Tillerson supported British Prime Minister Theresa May by saying that Russia most likely is responsible. He said that the poisoning as part of a “certain unleashing of activity” by Russia that would “certainly trigger a response” and that the nerve agent definitely “came from Russia.” Tillerson told British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that he’s “extremely concerned” about Russia and that his efforts to push the Trump administration to resolve differences with the Kremlin “didn’t get very far.”

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders first repeatedly avoided the mention of Russia in connection with the poisoning and described the attack as “reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible.” Since Tillerson’s firing, DDT has said that he and May need to ask Russia about the poisoning. Typically, DDT accepts Putin’s answer when he refuses to take any blame, i.e., when DDT asked Putin if he meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

Nikolai Glushkov’s death in London yesterday also has the marks of Russian involvement. The Russian exile was close to the late oligarch and former Putin close friend Boris Berezovsky, who died five years ago in English where he sought exile after a falling out with the Russian president. A large number of Russian exiles have mysteriously died, considered either murder or unexplained.

The Senate must confirm Mike Pompeo before he takes the position of Secretary of State. If this happens, Pompeo may help DDT to support Russia by leaving the Iranian deal, permitting Iran to resume nuclear empowerment, and follow a hawkish approach toward North Korea. DDT and Tillerson also disagreed about blockading Qatar in support of Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. DDT decided to oppose Qatar after his son-in-law Jared Kushner lost a loan from a wealthy resident of Qatar. Tillerson also skipped a visit to Israel in his Middle East tour.

The media started guessing about Pompeo’s replacing Tillerson over five months ago, but DDT kept denying that there was a problem. In secret, however, he criticized Tillerson and listened to those who advocated his firing. Many people thought Tillerson’s position with DDT was in jeopardy, especially after he reportedly called DDT a “moron” last summer. Yet the guess was that that National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster would be the next to go. NBC has this record of 25 key departures since January 30, 2017.

A few Pompeo shortcomings while U.S. GOP representative from Kansas and CIA director:

  • For six years, Pompeo was the #1 all-time recipient of Koch Industries, receiving almost $1 million for four elections.
  • A Tea Party member, Pompeo is a major denier of climate science, determined to fight the Paris Climate Accord that is supported by almost 200 nations. During his CIA Director confirmation hearings, he refused to answer any questions about climate change.
  • Openly anti-LGBTQ, Pompeo refused to honor the CIA’s diversity mandate and became openly angry about questions about the CIA commitment to diversity. Pompeo also defended DDT’s “many sides” statements about Charlottesville (VA) protesters by claiming that DDT’s condemnation of bigotry was “frankly pretty unambiguous.”
  • Pompeo blackmailed Harvard Kennedy School into rescinding its invitation to Chelsea Manning as “visiting fellow” by cancelling an appearance to a Harvard forum in a letter that stated, “I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.” He also said that Edward Snowden should be executed as a treasonous traitor.
  • Although he knew that Michael Flynn was subject to Russian blackmail, he kept briefing Flynn on classified secrets.
  • Overtly political in his defense of DDT, Pompeo first consistently said first that the CIA had not found any information of Russian meddling in the election. He said, “We conducted an election that had integrity.” After Russian meddling became public, he claimed that the intelligence had proved Russian interference did not affect the outcome of the 2016 election. CIA officials had to correct him and explain that the CIA did not conclude anything about the Russian affect on the election.
  • Pompeo blamed Iran for the chaos in Iraq, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East.
  • Inserting religion into public CIA events, Pompeo also described the War on Terror as a clash between Christianity and Islam.
  • Pompeo supports domestic surveillance operations, including against U.S citizens.
  • CIA officials distrust CIA Director Pompeo because of his loyalties to DDT, despite the CIA being an independent agency.

This is the man who could be fourth in the presidential line of succession after vice president, speaker of the House, and Senate president pro tempore.

Gina Haspel is another problematic choice for CIA director. She operated a prison in Thailand that used torture interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and personally participated in the torture. When this was discovered, she then ordered the tapes of the torturing destroyed. Rolling Stone has a description of the torture. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, a Berlin-based NGO, has called for Haspel’s arrest for her role in the torture of detainees.

Studies show that torture is not an effective method of obtaining information and often results in the tortured people lying to end the torture. A 2014 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded, “the CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” Multiple detainees, according to the report, “fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence.”

Also unexpectedly fired today was DDT’s personal aide John McEntee who is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes. The Wall Street Journal described these as online gambling and mishandling of his taxes. Security officials escorted him out of the White House before he could get his jacket and other belongings. DDT immediately hired McEntee as senior adviser for campaign operations.

DDT may fill the swamp with even more hawks if he appoints TV personality Larry Kudlow to replace and former UN Ambassador John Bolton as national security adviser. Gone is the diplomacy in favor of DDT’ bullying manner. Tillerson was blamed for doing very little; Pompeo may do much more, but his actions can be dangerous for the United States.

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