Nel's New Day

June 10, 2018

People Come, People Go

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
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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.

 

March 14, 2018

Students Protest for Gun Safety, Get No Help for Legislators

Tens of thousands of young people walked out of over 3,000 schools for 17 minutes between 10:00 and 10:17 am today to protest the lack of safety in public schools and mourn those lost in the most recent massacre from high-powered guns at a school. One month ago today—28 days—17 people were killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland (FL). Some students either didn’t go to school today or were on lockdown because of threats of violence. Other schools locked school doors or threatened long suspensions to keep students from leaving for 17 minutes. ACLU cautioned that the First Amendment prevents more stringent punishments for protests. that a punishment cannot be more for First Amendment rights than general rules. Many enlightened districts, like my small one on the Oregon coast, supported the students’ protest rights.

Florida GOP legislators initially denigrated the young people who begged them for gun safety laws, but some Republican legislators in Florida condescended to pass a new law, recently signed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

The first Florida gun safety law in 20 years provides $400 million for greater school safety, help with mental health, and gun training for teachers who are not limited to classroom duties; a ban on bump stocks that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like fully automatic firearms; permission to remove guns and ammunition with court orders; a three-day waiting period for purchases of long guns; and prohibition of gun sales to anyone under 21 except for law enforcement or correctional officers or military members.

The governor objected to the waiting period and arming teachers but still signed it. The NRA immediately filed a lawsuit against Florida for discrimination because no one under 21 can buy guns.

Several Democrats voted against the bill because it puts more guns in schools by arming teachers. Once again, a teacher, this one in Monterey County (CA) showed the danger when the trained reserve police officer “accidentally” charged his gun during a class on public safety. One student was injured in the neck. The class continued after the incident, and the parents took the student to a hospital after he went home. The teacher said he was pointing the gun at the ceiling to see if his gun wasn’t loaded.

White supremacists, including one middle school social studies teacher in Florida, support recruiting people to take over public schools by become teachers. With the pseudonym of Tiana Dalichov, 25-year-old Dayanna Volitch bragged on a podcast about teaching her students about the myth of different levels of intelligence among races, the importance of “eradication” of all Muslims, and the necessity for “annihilation” of North Korea. She also promotes the conspiracy theory that no one died at the Parkland (FL) school. After Voltich’s suspension from teaching, a large number of “alt-right” women supported her. The new law lets these people have guns in schools.

With every age demographic opposed to arming teachers, peaking at 70 percent opposition among those ages 16-17, the greatest opponents are insurance companies. After a mass shooter massacred children and educators at Sandy Hook (CT), Kansas gave schools the right to concealed-carry, and EMC Insurance Companies, providing coverage to 85 percent of the state’s schools, said they wouldn’t insure schools that permitted employees to carry concealed handguns “to protect the financial security of the company.” Indiana workers’ comp insurers refused to cover school personnel who carried guns on campus. When Oregon considered a similar “guns in schools” initiative, insurance companies promised to surcharge districts for every civilian employee with a firearm in school. The question in Florida is whether they considered this issue when they passed its law arming teachers.

Basically, the new Florida law does what Republicans decry about schools—throw money at them without fixing the problem which is the problem of guns in schools. John Woodrow Cox showed the problem of accessibility to high-powered guns and large capacity magazines in his article about Jesse Osborne, a 14-year-old who killed a six-year old and injured another student and teacher after he had killed his father in their home. Osborne’s hope was to kill as many as 150 people, but he complained that he could get only a .40 caliber pistol. It jammed 12 seconds after he pulled the trigger. Osborne really wanted his father’s the Ruger Mini-14, a semiautomatic rifle like the gun that killed so many people in Parkland. Without that weapon, a firefighter was able to stop him. In court Oborne smiled while prosecutors described his crime. The Florida law won’t teach anyone how to pick out the Jesses from the millions of angry boys and men who love to shoot and succeed in getting guns.

Before the Florida Senate passed the final bill, it banned AR-15s for 15 minutes in an unrecorded voice vote. GOP leadership returned them to their normal state of Florida the “Gunshine State,” and overturned that vote by 21-17. Pro-AR-15 arguments were that AR-15s would protect people from the Nazi Holocaust and that “thoughts and prayers” were more useful than gun bans because people could use explosives to kill people. The Senate kept the AR-15s and then had a moment of silence for the 17 dead people before leaving the chamber.

The Alabama state Senate carried the religious notion event further: it’s “gun-safety” bill authorizes the placement of the Ten Commandments on public property to stop school mass shootings.

Since the Parkland massacre, the media largely ignored an armed school attack in Pennsylvania that left 22 wounded people. The 16-year-old sophomore had no guns—just two large knives. With an AR-15, he could have killed more than the 22 people he wounded. In the two Canadian mass shootings in 2016, a crossbow attack killed three, and a shotgun attacked killed four in two different locations. Yet in another U.S. mass shooting, this one in a Yountville (CA) veterans home, a veteran murdered three women before killing himself. In the first 67 days of 2018, 41 shootings of at least four people have killed at least 72 people. Seven of those shootings were in Florida.

For a month, the GOP Congress dithered about gun safety laws as young people continued to pressure them. Today, the House passed $50 million in unfunded grants for safety protocols and training in schools, ironically called Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act. The theory is to provide “tools and training to recognize warning signs to prevent violence.” The House has no plans for any other legislation unless the Senate sends them bills.

To look as if he were concerned about gun violence in schools, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issued his proposal for gun safety, largely similar to the Florida law and House bill although it added some requirements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in her disastrous 60 Minutes interview that she will be leading DDT’s “blue ribbon” commission on school safety. In addition to training teachers with guns, DDT wants to recruit military veterans and retired law enforcement trained with guns to become teachers, perhaps paying them the bonuses that he offered teachers with guns. Basically, watch people to see if they’re a problem (like white supremacists with guns?) and hire gun experts as teachers while studying programs. What’s missing is even his weak promise of increasing the age limit of purchasing high-powered semi-automatic weapons to 21. DDT is now repeating “The NRA happens to be very good people.”

DDT follows the person he talked with last, and in the case of his “school safety” ideas, he talked with NRA representatives last. “A gun-free zone to a killer or somebody who wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for the ice cream,” DDT said after he met with NRA leaders. The United States has some of those “ice cream” gun-free zones:

  • The White House
  • The Republican National Convention
  •  Mar-a-Lago
  • The U.S. Capitol Building
  • Republican Town Halls
  • NRA Conventions

No one gets shot in these places. In fact, when 80,000 people leave their homes for the annual NRA convention, gun-related injuries drop in the U.S. by 20 percent, according to a new study. In the states hosting the NRA convention, the drop in 37 percent is much more dramatic. Lead author of the study, Harvard Medical School professor Anupam Jena, said the reason is “a brief period of abstinence in gun use” when gun owners are away and their gun ranges or hunting grounds are closed. An Emory University epidemiologist suggested year-long NRA conventions to improve gun safety in the United States. (FYI, Dallas is holding the gun-free NRA convention on May 4-6.)

The most efficient way to pass real gun safety laws, not the laws that have commissions and extra money for training, is to use Black Panthers to patrol schools. It worked 50 years ago when they legally carried their guns onto the floor of the California state legislature. They were disarmed, and state legislators outlawed the public carrying of loaded firearms. Within a year, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the first federal gun-control law in 30 years, followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968 that amended and enlarged the first law.

March 3, 2018

DDT: Week 58 – Russia, Guns

[Note: Survivors of the Parkland (FL) school shooting cannot get a permit for their March for Our Lives on March 24 because a student group “at a local educational institution” wants to film a talent show on the Mall on that date. That permit states, “Games will be the main activity for filming,” and equipment listed “two tables, two bikes, and jump ropes.” March for Our Lives organizers planned their rally away from federal land and in D.C., on Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and 12th streets NW.]

The increasing fury from the tweets of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), such as his primal scream “WITCH HUNT,” has been worsened by revelations about White House policy possibly being directed by Jared Kushner’s need for money. The debt on his Fifth Avenue property, $1.4 billion, comes due next year. Investigations show possible connections between financing for Kushner’s family business and Kushner’s discussions with Qatar, Turkey, Russia, China, and the United Arab Emirates:

  • The punishing blockade against Qatar occurred after a Qatar billionaire decided not to invest in Kushner’s business.
  • Apollo Global Management loaned Kushner $184 million, triple the average size of a typical loan, after an Apollo founder Joshua Harris, advising DDT about infrastructure, met with Kushner about a White House job for Harris.
  • Israel’s Menora Mivtachim loaned $30 million to Kushner for additional equity in 10 Maryland apartment complexes just before DDT’s trip with Jared and Ivanka last May. Since then, DDT declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and the move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
  • Citigroup loaned Kushner $325 million after Kushner met with a chief executive, Michael Corbat.

Kushner has now lost his high-level security clearance to a status below the White House chief calligrapher, which includes his losing access to DDT’s daily brief.

Robert Mueller’s investigation:

  • DDT’s attacks on AG Jeff Sessions for his handling of Sessions’ assignment of his inspector general to examine GOP accusations of FISA surveillance procedures as well as whether DDT tried to get rid of AG Jeff Sessions last summer to get control of the Russia investigation.
  • Whether DDT knew about Russia stealing DNC emails before the public was aware of the action and whether DDT knew when WikiLeaks was going to release the hacked emails. In July 2016, DDT asked Russia to find emails deleted by Hillary Clinton.
  • Whether DDT’s associate Roger Stone knew about the email information before it was public.  Stone lied about not having direct communication with WikiLeaks during DDT’s campaign. Democrats asked the House Intelligence Committee to subpoena WikiLeaks messages with Stone, but Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) and the other GOP members have refused.

Nunes did release the Democratic refutation of the GOP House Intelligence Committee memo and explanation of the warrant to surveil Carter Page. A government watchdog group filed a second ethics complaint against Nunes’ leaking private information from Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) to the Fox network about the Russian interference to the media. After some of Hope Hicks’ testimony was leaked, the two top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including GOP Richard Burr (NC), told House Speaker Paul Ryan about “concerns” regarding the operations of the House committee and accusations of the GOP illegal leaking.

The scariest Russian information this week came from Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency. He reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he cannot try to stop the Kremlin meddling—and perhaps control—of U.S. elections without presidential authorization—which DDT won’t give. Members of the NSC understand that DDT would perceive any discussion of the Russian problem as a personal affront. Rogers, due to retire in April, said, “President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore ‘I can continue this activity.’”

Vladimir Putin continues to make fools of conservatives, who he calls “useful fools.” In his latest address, Putin announced Russia has an “invincible” missile moving at hypersonic speed with an “unlimited” range that renders defense “completely useless.” He said that “any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies to be a nuclear attack on our country.” DDT had no response to Putin and saved his energy for tweeting against Alex [sic] Baldwin after his performance on Saturday Night Live.

DDT has a serious problem with his animosity toward Iran. He has incessantly threatened to sever the U.S. deal with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons in order to please his base. At the same time, Russia, who DDT doesn’t dare offend, is building a closeness with Iran, becoming that country’s most important ally.

DDT is scapegoating former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe by accusing him of leaking information in October 2016 about conflict within the FBI and DOJ regarding Hillary Clinton’s family foundation and then intentionally misleading investigators about what he had done. The DOJ is also investigating former FBI director James Comey, his statement about closing the cases against Clinton’s email server without charges, and his decision to announce resumption of his work in this area only ten days before the presidential election. Last May, DDT asked McCabe in a meeting who McCabe voted for in that election and attacked him in tweets about his wife taking donations from a Democrat’s PAC for her political campaign. McCabe’s retirement is scheduled for March 18.

In trouble for paying legal fees defending DDT and Donald Trump Jr. in the Russian collusion, the RNC switched the monthly $37,541.67 to rent part of Manhattan’s Trump Tower. DDT’s election campaign also paid over $470,000 in rent for space at Trump Tower during 2017. Other RNC expenditures include $427,000+ expenditures at DDT’s properties such as Trump International Hotel (Washington, D.C.), Mar-a-Lago (Palm Beach), and Trump National Doral (Miami). DDT’s former bodyguard Keith Schiller collected $75,000 for “security services” immediately after Chief of Staff John Kelly fired Schiller in September, and the RNC said that he is being paid to consult on its 2020 convention site selection. VP Mike Pence’s son, John Pence, also gets over $7,000 a month for “consulting,” and DDT political ally Brad Parscale, DDT’s former campaign digital director and newly-named 2020 campaign director, got over $882,000 from the RNC in January.

Parscale sold his digital company last year for $10 million to CloudCommerce that it has not made a profit for almost ten years and spent over $19 million in investor money since it was started almost 20 years ago. At this time, CloudCommerce has $107,000. In 2006, a top executive was caught in an FBI bribery sting and pled guilty to securities fraud. Andrew Van Noy, Cloudcommerce’s chief executive, has earned less than $9,000 in each of the past three years and has faced six-figure debts from unpaid credit cards and repossessed cars while facing two real-estate fraud lawsuits. Parscale, a member of the board, hired Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, for an undisclosed amount.

DDT hasn’t said anything about the stock market since its volatility in early February, but his announcement of tariffs—25 percent on steels and 10 percent on aluminum—caused the markets to plummet again this week. A president can legally impose tariffs with proof that imports threaten U.S. national security. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doesn’t believe in the significant “trickle-down” possibility of price hikes with taxes on imports. All DDT’s advisers and the GOP legislators opposed the move except the Commerce Department. Just days before the announcement, DDT’s former adviser Carl Icahn sold $31.3 million of stock in Manitowoc, a manufacturer relying on steel. It is the first time that Icahn trade these stocks in two years. DDT’s answer to global concerns both foreign and domestic is that “trade wars are good and easy to win.”

Traumatized by the tariffs, the GOP is also suffering from DDT’s statement:

“I like taking the guns. Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

The only gun position DDT has consistently kept this week is to arm the teachers, despite objections from diverse groups. Evidence supporting the insanity of arming teachers come from increasing news such as the “Teacher of the Year” in Georgia who fired a gun in his classroom this week, the six-year-old who found his teacher’s gun that had been left on the back of a toilet and the third-grader who reached into an armed guard holster and fired his gun.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto won’t be coming to visit DDT— Peña Nieto’s second cancellation since DDT’s inauguration because DDT won’t admit that Mexico won’t be building the wall. Mexican officials said that DDT “lost his temper” during the 50-minute telephone call; U.S. officials called him frustrated and exasperated. DHS Director Kirstjen Nielsen has canceled her visit to Mexico. Jared Kushner was in charge of U.S.-Mexico relationships.

More to come about appointments, resignations, lawsuits, etc. during Week 58.

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