Thursday Reads: “It’s All Too Much and We Still Have To Care.” — Dahlia Lithwick

Le Jardin, Henri Matisse

Good Afternoon!!

The next few days are going to be insane in the political world, as the DOJ Inspector General’s report is released today and tomorrow Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen will both be in court. As a counterpoint, I’m illustrating this post with some restful Matisse landscapes.

There already is more breaking news from New York. Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood. This is from AG web page:

NEW YORK – Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today announced a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and its directors, Donald J. Trump (“Mr. Trump”), Donald J. Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump. The petition filed today alleges a pattern of persistent illegal conduct, occurring over more than a decade, that includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations. The Attorney General initiated a special proceeding to dissolve the Trump Foundation under court supervision and obtain restitution of $2.8 million and additional penalties. The AG’s lawsuit also seeks a ban from future service as a director of a New York not-for-profit of 10 years for Mr. Trump and one year for each of the Foundation’s other board members, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump. The Attorney General also sent referral letters today to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, identifying possible violations of federal law for further investigation and legal action by those federal agencies.

Henri Matisse, The Sea Seen from Collioure (La Mer vue de Collioure) spring-summer 1906

As alleged in the petition, Mr. Trump used the Trump Foundation’s charitable assets to pay off his legal obligations, to promote Trump hotels and other businesses, and to purchase personal items. In addition, at Mr. Trump’s behest, the Trump Foundation illegally provided extensive support to his 2016 presidential campaign by using the Trump Foundation’s name and funds it raised from the public to promote his campaign for presidency, including in the days before the Iowa nominating caucuses….

The Attorney General’s investigation found that Trump Foundation raised in excess of $2.8 million in a manner designed to influence the 2016 presidential election at the direction and under the control of senior leadership of the Trump presidential campaign. The Foundation raised the funds from the public at the nationally televised fundraiser Mr. Trump held in lieu of participating in the presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 28, 2016.  In violation of state and federal law, senior Trump campaign staff, including Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, dictated the timing, amounts, and recipients of grants by the Foundation to non-profits, as evidenced by communications between Campaign staff and Foundation representatives.

Note the portion I highlighted–whose tax returns do they have? There’s much more to absorb at the link, which goes to the NY Attorney General’s web page.

The Washington Post reports: New York files suit against President Trump, alleging his charity engaged in ‘illegal conduct.’

The New York attorney general on Thursday filed suit against President Trump and his three eldest children alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president’s personal charity, saying Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit — to pay off his businesses’ creditors, to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion dollar giveaway athis 2016 campaign events.

In the suit, filed Thursday morning, attorney general Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties.

Henri Matisse, The Bank, 1907

Underwood also asks that Trump be banned from leading any other New York nonprofit for 10 years — seeking to apply a penalty usually reserved for the operators of small-time charity frauds to the president of the United States.

In the suit, Underwood noted that Trump had already paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016. New York state began probing the Trump Foundation in response to an investigation by The Washington Post.

But she asked the judge to go further, and require Trump to pay millions more. She said a 20-month state investigation found that Trump had repeatedly violated laws that set the ground rules for tax-exempt foundations — most importantly, that their money is meant to serve the public good, and not to provide private benefits to their founders.

Trump is tweeting lies about this, but I’m not going to post his garbage. It sounds like the evidence of wrongdoing is abundantly clear. Much more at the link.

Here’s rational tweet:

This morning, CNN broke a story out of North Korea. North Korea’s state media has released a video in which Trump is seen saluting a North Korean general.

Un-fucking-believable! Read more about the propaganda video at the CNN link above.

The Daily Beast: Trump Salutes North Korean Army General.

President Trump saluted a uniformed North Korean military officer, according to footage broadcast by North Korean state TV this week and unearthed by CNN. After Trump shook North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s hand, the president then offered his hand to the regime’s Gen. No Kwang Chol, who instead salutes Trump, causing the U.S. president to awkwardly return the gesture. The pair then shake hands. It is typical, The Hill reported, for presidents to salute members of the U.S. military as a sign of respect, but it is not normal to salute members of other countries’ militaries—especially countries described by CNN as “one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth.” Trump also saluted members of Singapore’s military while visiting for the summit. “It was an inappropriate thing for him to do from a protocol perspective,” retired Rear Adm. John Kirby told CNN. “He’s played right in to the North’s propaganda about their legitimacy on the world stage.”

Last night reporters were allowed into the former Walmart building in Texas where at least 1400 boys are incarcerated without their parents. One deeply disturbing revelation from that visit was that the first thing those poor kids see on entering the “shelter” prison is an Orwellian mural of Big Brother Donald Trump. MySanAntonio: Donald Trump mural inside Texas shelter sparks debate.

AUSTIN — One of the largest shelters for unaccompanied minors in Texas includes a wall-sized mural of President Donald Trump.

“Kids would tell me it was an odd image to see, that it scared them. They didn’t like it,” said Diana Gomez, who conducted legal screenings inside the shelter for several months in 2017.

Place des Lices, St. Tropez – Henri Matisse

The mural appears inside Southwest Key Program’s Casa Padre shelter in Brownsville, where Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon was denied entry earlier this month. The shelter, located inside a former Walmart, held more than 1,000 children as of mid-May, according to state data.

A spokeswoman for Southwest Key said the mural has been there “since shortly after the shelter opened” and that there are paintings of many U.S. presidents.

Painted by a Southwest Key employee, the mural depicts President Trump’s head floating above the White House and in front of an American flag. The mural appears at the entrance to a hallway that leads from the cafeteria to more rooms, Gomez said. While other presidents, including Barack Obama, are painted inside the hallway, each of those is accompanied by an “inspiring quote” about immigration, while Trump’s is not, Gomez said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said a quote in Spanish and one in English now accompany Trump’s mural, one of roughly 20 depicting presidents. One says, “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war”; he couldn’t read the note in Spanish.

You’ve probably seen the mural already. Even in the painting, Trump looks like he’s smirking.

Here’s Dahlia Lithwick on the horrors we are having to absorb in Trump World and the need to keep awake and aware: It’s All Too Much, and We Still Have to Care. What’s going on at the border is horrifying, but we can’t go numb and turn away.

As a purely descriptive matter, it’s surely true: We are all going numb. As Donald Trump makes war with Canada and peace with dictators and human rights abusers, the narrative is that everyone’s lost all feeling. Polls show the public believes that Trump paid off a porn star, and they don’t care. They believe that he lies habitually, and they also don’t care. A Pew poll released last week showed that nearly 7 in 10 Americans “feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days,” which is how we end up with real journalists like Chuck Todd pushing a humorous pharmaceutical solution to the problem of constant breaking news destroying our minds.

Landscape of the Midi – before the Storm Henri Matisse – circa 1921

On Monday alone, we learned that the Trump administration is planning to denaturalize U.S. citizens who—it claims—fraudulently obtained citizenship. Also on Monday, America witnessed a change in immigration policy that will deny asylum to women fleeing domestic abuse, on the grounds that it’s a “private” harm. We witnessed a ramping up and coordinated defense of a Trump administration policy of separating families seeking asylum. That policy is resulting in children being warehoused in cages and ripped away from their parents, as their mothers are told they are bathing. Their. Mothers. Are. Told. They. Are. Bathing. A Honduran father seeking asylum hanged himself in a Texas jail after his wife and 3-year-old were separated from him at the border.

Jeff Sessions tells a horrified Hugh Hewitt that this forced separation policy is purely instrumental because we must “send a message” to future asylum-seekers that “if people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.” As Jessica Winter observes, this is the “I only beat her because she made me do it” logic that domestic abusers use to blame their victims.

No one should be surprised that a White House that downplayed and even defended Rob Porter’s abuse of women would trivialize the abuse of women victimized abroad. Women are not real to this administration. They are instead being returned to the stereotypes of supplicants and enablers. Female lawyers are being erased from the federal judiciary and U.S. attorneys’ offices. An awful lot of women in America have felt erased since we heard Trump brag about sexual assault and then saw him elected president anyhow. None of us should have expected brutality toward women to be treated as a serious matter by the Trump White House.

Olive Tree, Henri Matisse 1898

Most of the women I know are as heartsick about the obscene actions taking place at the borders as I am. I think a year ago we would have been out on the streets, were the government stealing the children of asylum-seekers and refugees and sending them halfway across the country or stacking them up like lumber in detention facilities. But today, I worry, we are horrified but numb. We want to be told what to do.

Read the rest at the Slate link above.

Just one more, and then I’ll add some links in the comment thread. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Trump’s gaslighting is about to get a lot worse.

Today, the Justice Department’s inspector general is expected to release a report scrutinizing the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email arrangement. I’m going to predict that President Trump is going to lie about this report — a lot — as part of his broader ongoing campaign to delegitimize special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into his campaign’s collusion with Russia’s sabotage of our election on his behalf.

But the nature of Trump’s lying in this particular case, I think, will command special attention, and it’s not clear that we in the news media are up to dealing with it. The most likely scenario is that Trump will tell a series of lies that aren’t merely dishonest in any conventional sense, but add up to a broader feat of gaslighting that is so spectacularly absurd and self-undermining that it will be hard to adequately convey to news consumers just how deeply saturated in bad faith it really is.

The report by the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is expected to be highly critical of the FBI’s treatment of the Clinton email investigation, with a focus on decisions made by former FBI director James B. Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe and former attorney general Loretta Lynch.

Today the New York Times previews Horowitz’s findings. Trump has been alleging that the FBI is actually a hotbed of pro-Clinton, anti-Trump sentiment. In Trump’s telling, the FBI corruptly cleared Clinton of criminality and launched an illegitimate investigation into Trump. (Horowitz is looking separately at the FBI’s treatment of Trump, and those results will come later.) The Times notes that Horowitz is unlikely to find evidence backing up Trump’s narrative, but Trump is likely to try to spin it his way, anyway.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


64 Comments on “Thursday Reads: “It’s All Too Much and We Still Have To Care.” — Dahlia Lithwick”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Do any of us still recognize the same US we were born and raised to support and defend?

    We are being “ruled” by an ignorant madman. Along with Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and a host of others guiding this moron, our nation is being torn apart from coast to coast.

    Trump is crazy. Not “crazy like a fox” but certifiably insane. Saluting a North Korean officer? Calling Trudeau names? Dissing Merkel? Tweeting about Robert DiNiro among a host of others? Ripping babies from their mothers arms? Congratulating Alt Right candidates with ties to white supremacists? Defending Scott Pruitt? What other diagnosis can be given to someone this unbalanced?

    He has no fear of being called out by the GOP. None. They sit their like sheep while he acts on behalf of Putin, something no one could have predicted. It is traitorous. Unseemly. Downright weird. But yet he gets away with it without accountability or the slightest criticism because they “fear” his cult members will vote against them. Party before country. Welcome to the repeat of the 1930s where another madman went unchecked.

    What is happening is awful. Not a strong word concerning the circumstances but I am running out of adjectives to describe this tragedy that unfolds daily from the highest office in the land.

    Let’s hope we survive this horror show and are eventually able to call this asshole to task along with his enablers who allowed it to happen.

    Hope is about all we have left.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hope and our votes.

    • Enheduanna says:

      I’m just hoping for a huge backlash against this administration that destroys the GOP completely, but I’m scared they will lie and cheat their way into power again. That’s the only way they can win.

      The fact he’s acting on behalf of Putin was very apparent before the election – Hillary even called him a puppet in one of the debates, didn’t she? I’m not sure any of us realized the extent to which he’d go, for sure.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    WaPo: What is Trump trying to hide by blaming Canada? The answer may be frightening.

    What could they be trying to hide under a smokescreen of manufactured anger about Trudeau’s unremarkable remarks? A little-noticed (except here in France) event suggests a truly scary answer. The episode in Quebec was the second such Trump-inspired trade communique fracas in 10 days. Trump may well be mounting an all-out assault on global trade organizations and rules as a matter of policy and design, not just pique or domestic politics.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    NBC News: Trump has a plan to end DACA. It started in Texas and could go to the Supreme Court.

    In a motion filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers told a judge in Texas that the program violates federal immigration law. Assuming, as expected, that the judge grants the request from DACA opponents and orders the government to stop enforcing DACA, the ruling would conflict with orders from two other federal courts that require continued enforcement of the program.

    If faced with competing court orders, the Justice Department said it would then rush to the U.S. Supreme Court and tell the justices that the government would be in violation no matter what it did — keeping DACA going would violate the Texas order, while trying to shut it down would violate the other court orders.

    In that event, the government would ask the Supreme Court to put a hold on all the lower court rulings. And if the justices agreed, the Trump administration would be free to shut DACA down immediately, because nothing would be in effect to prevent the government from taking that action.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      We need to refer to this as the Trump gulag.

    • dakinikat says:

      The signs are horrifying. How can any one not look at this and think of a Huxley or Orwellian dystopia? He aspires to “dear leader” status daily. It’s a nightmare!

      • Sweet Sue says:

        Have you seen the movie, “Children of Men,” with Clive Owen? I recommend it.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    I bounce back and forth in indecision regarding Trump’s motives attached to his behavior.

    I think he is seriously disturbed but I am unsure about what leads to his actions.

    Does he praise the “bad guys” like Putin and Kim because he admires them? Admires their strong arm leadership that includes murder and torture? Or is it because they have finessed his fragile ego with the praise he relishes and he wants to be part of their posse?

    Trump knows his “win” was a fluke. He seeks “legitimacy”. Aligning himself with those “leaders”whose own legitimacy was always in question makes him a member of the club. He is too stupid to recognize nuance but his enablers are smart enough to feed him the propaganda that he is indeed worthy of praise.

    Kiss his ass and you can reap the rewards. Challenge or criticize and you will face the consequences.

    I detest and loathe this man with a white hot passion. He is stupid. He is a crook. Time will reveal his criminality but it is his ignorance that is most dangerous. His amorality cannot be denied. He does not possess one redeemable quality that we see fit to honor in the POTUS.

    It is frustrating that Mueller is taking so long.

  6. dakinikat says:

    I just read the Dahlia bit and oh,boy, I know what she means.

    Right now, I’m telling every one to call their congress critters until their fingers bleed.

    • dakinikat says:

      I just spoke to Senator Kennedy’s office in Washington DC. I told him I was a constituent in New Orleans and that I hope the Senator was pro life enough to realize that separating women from children seeking asylum was inhumane and that the Cardinals had said so too. My voice was actually cracking up on the phone. I told him that it was absolutely tearing at me to watch mothers being ripped from crying babies on TV and I am praying he stops it.

      The young man there sounded tired and sad. I don’t think I was the firs one he had heard from today. He sighed really heavily when he said, okay have a nice day at the end of the call.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks. It sounds like they’re hearing from a lot of angry constituents. Good!

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Cartoonist fired for his anti-Trump cartoons.

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s the full complaint from the NY AG lawsuit against Trump family for criminal misuse of Trump Foundation:

    Click to access full.pdf

  10. bostonboomer says:

    So much is happening today, and tomorrow will be even worse!

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Oh my fucking word!!!!!!

    • quixote says:

      Christ in a jetpack. Really? Really? The same Comey who used EMAILZ to kill Hillary?

      /*shakes head*/

      The gods have a vicious sense of humor.

  12. dakinikat says:

  13. bostonboomer says:

  14. palhart says:

    I hope Trump, his family, and fiends have hugely miscalculated in getting away with years of their corruption as Michael Avenatti claims Trump has done so stupidly in not helping Cohen with his legal bills. Now, he’s expected to squeal big-time. Michael C. don’t lie to Mueller because he knows the truth and the law.

  15. dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      I watched the briefing. Sarah did not come off looking good, and the media people were really pushing her for once.

  16. dakinikat says:

    We might lose Merkel!!!

  17. NW Luna says:

    BB, excellent post. I know it was hard to write. It’s hard enough to read.

  18. NW Luna says:

    In defense of separating immigrant families, Sessions cites same Bible passage used to defend slavery

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a Bible verse Thursday to defend his department’s policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border from Mexico, suggesting that God supports the government in separating immigrant parents from their children.

    “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

  19. NW Luna says:

    • quixote says:

      Hillary Clinton is up there with Oscar Wilde when it comes to pithy comebacks.

      She wins a lot more than the whole internet.

  20. RonStill4Hills says:

    The findings of the IG report just goes to underscore the old axiom that has governed our politics for a generation:

    “There is NO ACT so vile and reprehensible, underhanded and hypocritical, unfair and outrageously contrary to the constitutional norms of justice and the democratic underpinnings of the republic, that shall not be completely overlooked and excused, if the target of said act is Hillary Clinton.”

  21. NW Luna says:

  22. NW Luna says:

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      Weakened @ Bernie’s was a piece of shit before pieces of shit were cool!!!!

      • Sweet Sue says:


      • Sweet Sue says:

        Ron, how was Bill last night?

        • RonStill4Hills says:

          Awesome! He refuses to be bitter. Very optimistic and pro-do-the-right-thing. I know he is right. I plan to be bitter a little while longer then I will get on with it.

          Hills was not there. Bummer. Can’t wait to read Bills new book.

          • NW Luna says:

            Thanks for the recap, Ron. I’m bitter right with you. Glad to hear WJC is still optimistic.

    • quixote says:

      Huuuuh? I mean ………… Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuh?

      If he was a senator or something, instead of an ole backwoods granpa with no access to news, there’s no way he could have missed the vast numbers of blacks locked up for total bullshit. Start with the woman in for five years for *inadvertently* voting the wrong way in Texas.

      As for drug dealers, he must have forgotten about Purdue Pharma? Just a senior moment, no doubt?

  23. bostonboomer says:

    Manafort is headed to jail. The judge revoked his bail.