Thursday Reads: Trump and His Swamp Creatures

La lectura al borde del pantano. Dennis Perrin

Good Morning!!

One of Trump’s biggest lies was his promise to “drain the swamp.” Instead, he and his cronies have turned Washington, D.C. into a playground for swamp creatures from all over the country and the world.

And that tweet leaves out the asbestos story! Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post: Make America Asbestos Again.

One of them wants to come to your country legally, work a job, contribute and eventually become a citizen. The other… is asbestos.

Guess which one President Trump has, historically, been vocally in favor of, and which one Trump’s administration is about to emit guidelines to discourage as much as it can? No, you do not need to guess. It is the Trump administration, and obviously its attitude is “LEGAL IMMIGRANTS are the real danger here. Give us more asbestos, please.”

That’s right. Not only have we not gotten around to banning asbestos, as nearly 60 other countries have, but also a Significant New Use Rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June (open for comment until Aug. 10!) would allow the case-by-case approval of certain uses of asbestos! Hooray! We have too many people coming here to try to build better lives! We have too little asbestos! You’re welcome!

Femme Lisant Pres de la Fenetre. Delphin Enjolras

One of them wants to come to your country legally, work a job, contribute and eventually become a citizen. The other… is asbestos.

Guess which one President Trump has, historically, been vocally in favor of, and which one Trump’s administration is about to emit guidelines to discourage as much as it can? No, you do not need to guess. It is the Trump administration, and obviously its attitude is “LEGAL IMMIGRANTS are the real danger here. Give us more asbestos, please.”

That’s right. Not only have we not gotten around to banning asbestos, as nearly 60 other countries have, but also a Significant New Use Rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June (open for comment until Aug. 10!) would allow the case-by-case approval of certain uses of asbestos! Hooray! We have too many people coming here to try to build better lives! We have too little asbestos! You’re welcome! [….]

All of the things we had hoped to leave in the ’80s are here right now with a big TRUMP seal attached.

We could have had Hillary. We could have had the first woman president. Instead we got Trump and his pack of grifters.

Jonathan Chait: The Whole Republican Party Seems to Be Going to Jail Now.

The entire Trump era has been a festering pit of barely disguised ongoing corruption. But the whole sordid era has not had a 24-hour period quite like the orgy of criminality which we have just experienced. The events of the last day alone include:

(1) The trial of Paul Manafort, which has featured the accusation that President Trump’s campaign manager had embezzled funds, failed to report income, and falsified documents. His partner and fellow Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, confessed to participating in all these crimes, as well as to stealing from Manafort.

Albert Anker

(2) Yesterday, Forbes reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have stolen $120 million from his partners and customers. Meanwhile Ross has maintained foreign holdings in his investment portfolio that present a major conflict of interest with his public office. (The “Don’t worry, Wilbur Ross would never do anything unethical just to pad his bottom line” defense is likely to be, uh, unconvincing to the many people filing suit against Ross for allegedly doing exactly that.)

(3) Also yesterday, ProPublica reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs is being effectively run by three Trump cronies, none of whom have any official government title or public accountability. The three, reports the story, have “used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests.”

(4) And then, this morning, Representative Chris Collins was arrestedfor insider trading. Collins had been known to openly boast about making millions of dollars for his colleagues with his insider knowledge. He is charged with learning of an adverse FDA trial, and immediately calling his son — from the White House! — urging him to sell his holdings.

Yes, yesterday was “quite a day.”

Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien on mega swamp creature Wilbur Ross. It’s hard to believe anyone could top Scott Pruitt’s corruption, but Ross has done it.

Wilbur Ross, like his former White House colleague, Scott Pruitt, is an interesting and unevolved version of Homo Paludosus: mired in myriad and ongoing ethical conflicts, subjected to tawdry revelations about his finances and business practices, and yet apparently impervious to extinction.

Brian Kershisnik (b. 1962, USA)

Ross, to be sure, hasn’t trafficked in all of the deeply swampy acts that made Pruitt so scandalicious. As far as we know, Ross hasn’t enlisted his security detail and staff to go shopping for him, he hasn’t hit up lobbyists for bargain condo rentals, and he hasn’t asked a big corporation to give his wife a business.

On the other hand, Ross, a veteran Wall Street dealmaker and investor, joined President Donald Trump’s cabinet as secretary of commerce already saddled with ongoing investments in companies and industries that would be directly affected – and possibly helped – by his policy decisions.

Ross is 80 and his biography on the Commerce Department website suggests how hard it would have been for him from his very first day in office to chart an unconflicted course…

Read the rest at Bloomberg News.

CNN follows up on ProPublica’s scoop on the Mar-a-Lago-gang who are running the VA from outside the government:

This group of three, led by Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, was very open about the fact that they had been “anointed by the President and had his full support to influence policy at the VA” despite never being appointed or installed as formal advisers, the source said.

Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor, and lawyer Marc Sherman were the other two individuals who worked to influence the VA from the outside, the source confirmed.

Mathis Miles Williams

The trio, known within the VA as “the Mar-a-Lago crowd,” have used their influence with Trump and within the VA for personal gain, badgering career staff, pushing certain policies and products and ignoring government rules and processes, ProPublica said.

It cited hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act in the article, which says the three exercised their influence without “transparency, accountability or oversight,” and that officials traveled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views….

Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer reacted to ProPublica’s report on Twitter, calling the revelation “a huge corruption scandal.”

“Trump gave power to make decisions at the VA – affecting every US veteran – to three men who are neither government officials nor vets. Their only qualification: membership at Mar-A-Lago, for which they pay Trump,” Beyer said.

Membership to the exclusive 20-acre club in Palm Beach, Florida — now dubbed by Trump the “Winter White House” — reportedly costs $200,000, with annual dues of $14,000.

The ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Wednesday, demanding any and all communications between VA officials and Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman.

“The situation reeks of corruption and cronyism,” said Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota in a statement.

It reeks alright. Everything about Trump’s “administration” smells to high heaven!

Oma Koti, March 1934. Martha Wendelin (Finnish. 1893-1986).

When Trump told his MAGA cultists that “I know the best people,” he apparently meant the best cheaters, liars, and crooks–even worse than any normal person could imagine. One of those crooks is on trial in Virginia right now, good old Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager.

All the experts say that the case against Manafort is rock solid, but I can’t help worrying about the crazy judge who’s in charge of the case. The New York Times has a profile of him today: Judge in Manafort Trial Is a ‘Caesar’ in His Own Rome.

Judge T. S. Ellis III had dismissed the jury for the day, but he was not quite finished opining about what he saw as irrelevant and repetitive questioning of a witness in the financial fraud trial of Paul Manafort.

Standing up so as to loom even larger over the courtroom, he angrily confronted Greg D. Andres, the lead prosecutor.

“Look at me,” the judge demanded, slamming his hand on the wooden ledge. “When you look down, it’s as if to say, you know, that’s B.S., I don’t want to listen to any more from you.”

“Don’t look down. Don’t roll your eyes,” he told Mr. Andres.

And so for the second time that afternoon, the prosecutor had to try to convince the judge that he only looked down because otherwise, he said, he would “be yelled at again by the Court” for his facial expression when “I’m not doing anything wrong, but trying my case.”

The Judge keeps riding the prosecution and trying to control how they present their case.

Leon Viorescu

Judge Ellis, 78, is the formidable ringmaster of the greatest show in the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., demanding both precise questioning and a breakneck pace in the trial of Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman.

He has routinely broken in on questioning, limited admission of evidence and exhorted lawyers to “expedite” — all the while entertaining spectators with humorous asides about his age, his wife, his Navy past, his lack of an email address, the jury’s lunch menu, split infinitives and the noise produced by a machine intended to keep bench conferences from being overheard (like “the sound of waves crashing”).

An appointee of President Ronald Reagan, he has pushed the customary limits of judicial intervention so far that Mr. Andres at one point seemed to suggest the prosecution had grounds to appeal. After the prosecutor complained Monday about the number of times “your honor stops us and asks us to move on,” the judge declared that he would stand by the record.

“I will stand by the record, as well,” Mr. Andres responded.

“Then you will lose,” Judge Ellis said.

But this morning, the judge apologized. The Washington Post reports:

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has raked prosecutors from the special counsel’s office over the coals for the past week and a half. But on Thursday, he backed down, telling jurors to ignore one piece of criticism.

“I was critical of counsel for … allowing an expert to remain in the courtroom,” he said before testimony began. “You may put that aside… I may well have been wrong.”

On Wednesday, Ellis scolded prosecutors for calling an IRS expert who has sat through the trial in the gallery. Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday morning pointing out that the transcript backed up their understanding that Ellis had explicitly allowed the expert to do so.

I’m just hoping the jury will pay more attention to the reams of documentary evidence the prosecution is producing than to the judge’s tantrums.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

33 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Trump and His Swamp Creatures”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    They are still counting votes in Ohio’s 12th district.

    USA Today: Ohio race just got closer after county finds hundreds of uncounted votes.

    COLUMBUS – The tight race between Democrat Danny O’Connor and Republican Troy Balderson just got tighter.

    Election officials in Franklin County found 588 previously uncounted votes in a Columbus suburb. The result: O’Connor had a net gain of 190 votes, bringing the race’s margin down to 1,564.

    “The votes from a portion of one voting location had not been processed into the tabulation system,” according to a Franklin County Board of Elections news release.

    Balderson declared victory Tuesday night in the closely watched congressional district race in central Ohio. But O’Connor says he’s waiting for all votes to be counted.

    That includes 3,435 provisional ballots and 5,048 absentee ballots, which will be tabulated by Aug. 24.

    The good news is that these two will face each other again in November.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Oh that’s good news! I did not realize they face off again – is this special election just for the interim between now and then? Seems like a waste.

      How like a GOPer to declare victory before all the votes are counted.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yes. The winner won’t even be able to do anything because Congress will be out of session much of the time and both candidates will have to start raising money for November.

  2. Enheduanna says:

    BB – the paintings are so beautiful. The first one is gorgeous.

    I’ve read a couple of things telling us not to be too worried about Judge Ellis – this is his MO for all his trials. I can’t find the articles now (of course) but something to the effect outcomes from his trials are rarely disputed, and this does seem to be a rock solid case. We are dealing with a cabal of the most inept crooks of all time.

  3. dakinikat says:

    Beautiful paintings!

    Mike Pence must think there are little green men on Mars and we need a Space Force to fight them! I can’t believe we’re going to waste tax dollars on this.

    That Chait article is pretty spot on! The law breaking is surreal!!

    • dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

      • quixote says:

        I haven’t been following the Space Force bullshit because, well, it’s just more bullshit to add to the mountain.

        But there is a serious issue here, maybe? If I remember right, aren’t there major international treaties against the militarization of space?

        Admittedly, US, Russians, and probably the Chinese, are doing what they can to cheat around the edges. But that’s different from full on militarization, which seems to be what the Orange Dump is after.

        Has anyone else heard more about this?

        • Catscatscats says:

          The military/NASA pundits i heard said there is no need for a “Space Force,” existing military departments have it covered with respect to intelligence and appropriate resources. Funding is an issue. If revenue neutral as they claim, establishing another military department would mean the money would come from the existing departments, potentially impacting current world wide ops. China was mentioned. apparently they blew up (presumed weapon test?) one of their own satellites creating a problem for whoever was up there at the time. I too was under the impression that space is everyone’s “territory” and international cooperation and exploration was the way forward, sans weapons of mass destruction, pending future alien invasions by extraterrestrial beings of color. Didn’t Ray Gun have a star wars initiative?

          • quixote says:

            You’re right. Raygun did, I seem to remember at the time there were also complaints about a slippery slope to militarizing space. Luckily the stupid thing didn’t work worth beans, so the issue was avoided.

            If the cost of the New Super Galactic Space Force comes out of existing military budget, I can’t see where the support for it is going to come from.

            But then, Ican’t see why the Dump has any support, so I’m a bad indicator.

          • NW Luna says:

            Oh, Reagan and his super missile defense shield! LOL. I remember that too, and the tests that that didn’t work.

            What a waste of money. How about getting Flint clean water instead? Or at least they could spend the money on space exploration, which would create more jobs in aerospace engineering and related fields.

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    Every once in awhile I find it best to shut off the computer, ignore the newspapers, and take a well deserved rest from Trump and his crooked swamp creatures still roaming around the nation snatching up anything not nailed down. This when they are not poisoning the water, air, and food supplies that will surely kill us off before ISIS – or the flatulent GOP – beats them to it.

    So I hunker down with a pile of books and my beloved Red Sox, managing to put some distance between this horrid administration and my sanity.

    It gets worse by the day. They have yet to hit rock bottom as most of “the best people” rob us blind by breaking the law but continue to behave so shamelessly. We are all being treated as “suckers”.

    We can all be assured that the entire GOP is complicit in holding up President Lunatic. Innocent people just doing their jobs are hauled before congress to be humiliated and browbeaten by GOP congress critters which looks more like a Soviet show trial then a quest for the truth. We are lied to so often we can barely keep up. Russia has invaded our lives. Apologists look the other way. A nutcase sits in the WH tweeting nonsense while we hang our heads in shame.

    The defenders of this nitwit are no better than he. Racists and ignorance arrive at those rallies cheering and applauding a crazy man so unqualified for this office that it is breathtaking.

    Our one hope may be the November midterms but what if it does not happen? That thought in itself is frightening. People must get out there in November and vote to rid us of this unholy alliance that includes both congress and the executive branch. If Kavanaugh wins to SC seat I fear that things can only get worse.

    How much more can we take? How soon will Mueller release a report? What do we do of the Dems fail in the Fall?

    I shudder at the thought.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I just thank goodness for my love of books. I’ve been escaping into them a lot lately. I can’t take much more of this madness either.

  5. Jslat says:

    Again, thanks for the beautiful women reading illustrations!

  6. dakinikat says:

    This judge!

    Judge halts mother-daughter deportation, threatens to hold Sessions in contempt

    Can you believe this? This Immigration judge ordered the government to turn around a plane that was flying a woman & her child who sought asylum back to her home of origin. The judge indicated that if the situation was not fixed US government officials would be found in contempt and the judge would begin with the Attorney General of the U.S

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks to everyone for commenting on the paintings. Finding them seems to help me get grounded when the news is too crazy.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Check out this thread. The administration tried to deport and mother and child whose case was still pending, and the judge made them turn the plane around and threatened to start hold Sessions in contempt.

    • bostonboomer says:

    • Jslat says:

      Here comes the judge, here comes the judge!

  10. dakinikat says:

    • Sweet Sue says:

      This tiny little girl wearing the Mickey shirt was separated from her family for almost two months. I’m just letting thank sink in. I’m so tired of crying but if I don’t, I’ll know that I’ve lost my humanity.

  11. NW Luna says:

    Love the paintings! My favorite is the women cradling the two little pups in her lap.

  12. NW Luna says:

    Oh, merely a flipped key. In this case it’s the Repug candidates, but it shows how unreliable our voting systems are. Also Kobach sounds slippery as hell which is not surprising.

    Newly discovered vote-tallying discrepancies have whittled down the lead Kris Kobach held over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary for Kansas governor.

    “It looks like someone may have flipped a key or something,” Marr told The Washington Post. “That error shortchanged Governor Colyer by 100 votes.”

    Kobach is not required by law to recuse himself from the recount process. Even so, some independent experts and Kobach critics have called on the secretary of state to recuse himself from the process entirely, arguing that his role as a candidate presents a conflict of interest. Kobach said Thursday night that he will remove himself from the further counting of votes, the Associated Press reported, but he said that the move will be “symbolic,” because counties do the work of counting votes.

  13. bostonboomer says: