Nel's New Day

January 5, 2019

DDT: Week 102 – Shutdown Stalemates, Idiocy Continues

Day 15 of government shutdown: Not much progress was made in shutdown talks between White House officials and congressional aides today although acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Democrats would not view a steel wall as a wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the House will start with bills to open departments, beginning with the Treasury so that people can get IRS tax refunds. A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, gone this week in a cloud of ethics investigations, transferred public records to a political appointee who had advised the Koch brothers and proposed limiting new Freedom of Information requests by refusing these if they are “burdensome.” He also shortened the public opinion to 30 days, in spite of the shutdown. In that way, no one can determine damage caused by the government shutdown and uncover Zinke’s ethics violations. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation agrees that Zinke’s proposal violates the FOIA because it says nothing about the “vast quantity of material” requested. DOJ is also investigating whether Zinke committed the criminal offence of lying to the Inspector General.

Despite the shutdown, Robert Mueller’s investigation is still funded, and the federal grand jury has been extended for another six months.

Almost 400,000 federal workers are “furloughed” because they aren’t “essential,” and some of them won’t get paychecks when they go back to work because they are employed by a private contractor. Zach Fuentes, one of the lucky ones who keeps getting paid, needs six more months of work to qualify for a Coast Guard early retirement program that expired at the end of 2018. DHS pushed to have the program renewed, but reporters’ questions led legislation for the program to be removed from the House appropriations bill. John Kelly saved the 36-year-old with under 15 years of service by making him his deputy chief of staff. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wanted another deputy but said that Fuentes will stick around. Mulvaney said, “Zach’s a good man; we’ll find something for him to do productive.” His new title is assistant to the president and senior adviser to the chief of staff. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the committee with oversight over the White House, has promised an investigation into the Fuentes affair.

The stock of Goldman Sachs, former employer of several DDT appointments, went down 35 percent because Malaysian filed criminal charges against Goldman after country’s Prime Minster Najib Razak, DDT’s friend, took huge amounts of cash from a state investment fund. Malaysia has filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs, demanding $7.5 billion in reparations, and at least ten countries have probes into Goldman Sachs’ business. Before the 2008 recession, Goldman profited in the collapse in subprime mortgage bonds by short-selling subprime mortgage-backed securities. DDT’s White House is known for having employed a large number of Goldman Sachs alumni.

DDT’s rambling comments in a press conference yesterday followed his disastrous 90-minute meeting Wednesday when he offended India by accusing them of only building a small library in Afghanistan. India, which didn’t attack and destroy Afghanistan as the U.S. did, gave $3 billion to Afghanistan which included building the Parliament. DDT also parroted Vladimir Putin’s propaganda in his revisionist history that the USSR collapsed after declaring bankruptcy fighting in Afghanistan in retaliation for its terrorists going into Russia. The statement that “Russia used to be the Soviet Union” ignored the 14 other republics in the USSR, and DDT’s statement that the USSR was “right to be there” conflicted with U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. opposed the USSR in that conflict, the USSR went into Afghanistan to keep communism in the country, the Soviet economy didn’t go bankrupt, and its financial problems came from declining oil prices. DDT’s comments come directly from Vladimir Putin, and he went farther than Putin when he excused Russian aggression.

National Security adviser John Bolton assured Israel that DDT had no timeline for a military pullout from Syria two weeks after DDT declared it eminent. Mulvaney had said that DDT wouldn’t change his mind about the immediate pullout, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is taking credit for talking DDT into a “pause situation.” DDT decided to slow down the withdrawal of troops in Syria after tweeting that retired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has “big, dumb mouth” in accord with Fox’s Laura Ingraham’s criticism of McChrystal caution against the pullout.

After George W. Bush’s judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the media addressed the possibility of “Medicare for All” (aka universal health care like every other industrialized nation). The judge has now decided that the ACA would stay in effect until the issue moves through the courts because “many everyday Americans would… face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal”—an obvious conclusion from his first ruling. A coalition of 17 states has appealed the decision, and the House plans to direct its Office of General Counsel to represent lawmakers in any litigation involving the act and authorize hiring of outside counsel.

DDT has starting to chip away at Medicare Part D by cutting some medications provided by Part D of Medicare—specifically those for HIV, depression, schizophrenia, cancer, epilepsy, and immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection of organ transplants. Despite DDT’s bragging that he had lowered costs of drugs, pharmaceutical companies raised prices at the beginning of 2019 for hundreds of prescription medications this week. The increases, as high as 133.4 percent, averaged 6.3 percent and included drugs for high blood pressure, pain relievers, and anesthetics.

Facing at least seven major investigations—campaign, transition, inaugural committee, presidency, business, charity, emoluments, and personal finances—DDT is looking at an eighth one about the employment of undocumented immigrants at his Bedminster (NJ) golf resort in New Jersey. Federal and state investigators are looking into the employment records of immigrants after several undocumented immigrants said they were recruited to work at the facility. An employer told Victorina Morales, assured that her immigration status didn’t matter, that she couldn’t do anything about abuse at work because she wasn’t documented and worked for the president. Employers at the club deliberately removed names of undocumented workers so that the Secret Service would not vet them, but the undocumented immigrants kept working.

Video from a privatized government Southwest Key facility for migrant children shows the staff physically dragging, pulling, and slapping children in their care, but Arizona authorities have determined that this abuse is not criminal. Maricopa County closed three cases of child abuse without interviewing staff or minors involved. The place, along with another operated by Southwest Key, had its license canceled two months ago because of faulty employee background checks. Taxpayers gave the company, holding more migrant children than any other corporation, $1.7 billion in the last decade, $620 million just last year. Salary for the owner, Juan Sanchez, was $1.5 million last year.

The IRS has more serious problems than the inability to refund taxes as the GOP guarantees that it fails to collect revenue. Its 9,510 IRS auditors are one third fewer than 2010 and fewer than the 10,000 revenue agents in 1953 when the economy was one-seventh of the present day. Over one-third of IRS employees is eligible for retirement next year. Corporations and billionaires are the biggest beneficiaries of these cuts because their audits require specialized personnel. Instead, the IRS audits the working poor who receive the earned income tax credit the highest priority. GOP policies are losing the United States tens of billions of dollars. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, also acting chief of staff, failed to pay over $15,000 in taxes for his nanny from 2000 through 2004.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis left his office on New Year’s Eve with his message for U.S. troops: “Hold Fast.”  With Mattis gone, US Strategic Command (StratCom) tweeted, “We are ready to drop something much, much bigger [than the ball in New York].” StratCom waited three hours to decide that a threat from the “guardians of several thousand nuclear missiles” about “raining death and destruction from above is some kind of joke,” as Derek Johnson, executive director of the anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero, pointed out. Walter Schaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, asked, “What kind of maniacs are running this country?” We’ll learn in the coming months. [visual]

DDT’s ICE celebrated New Year’s Day by teargassing migrants on the Mexico side of the border. They were seeking asylum according to law, lifting toddlers over the fence, but ICE claimed that they were throwing rocks. AP reported that no one threw rocks until after they were teargassed, and Mexico is investigating.

Over two decades ago, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich took money from staff for committees and outsourced policy making to right-wing think tanks and lobbyists. Last summer, DDT believed in a “red wave” and budgeted $129 million for staff “handy for investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails.” On January 3, the new House Speaker, likely Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), took control over that $129 million to hire more personnel for investigations—maybe into DDT’s administration. Welcome to the U.S. House of 2019!

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