Lazy Caturday Reads: Banana RepublicPosted: May 11, 2019
It’s getting more and more difficult for me to see a way out the mess we’re in with Trump. Perhaps the House will eventually impeach, but Republicans seem happy to accept election help from Russia and other foreign sources. Will any of them ever stand up to Trump?
And can we hope to win the election in 2020 with creepy old white guy Joe Biden when we’ve done nothing to protect the integrity of our elections from Russia’s interference? In 2020, will Trump have help from other countries like China, Israel, and Saudi Arabia?
Here are today’s disturbing reads:
Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker: The Constitutional System Is Not Built to Resist Trump’s Defiance of Congress.
Our constitutional system never contemplated a President like Donald Trump. The Framers anticipated friction among the three branches of government, which has been a constant throughout our history, but the Trump White House has now established a complete blockade against the legislative branch, thwarting any meaningful oversight. The system, it appears, may simply be incapable of responding to this kind of challenge.
The President has been candid about his plans for responding to investigations from the House of Representatives, which has been controlled by the Democrats since January. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump said, last month, and the pace of his defiant actions has since quickened. The President and his Administration have defied congressional inquiries about security clearances, access to the full Mueller report, the President’s bank records, his tax returns, and the continuing investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia. (This week, it was revealed that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed the President’s oldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., to testify before it again.) No White House documents have been produced to Congress; after the Attorney General, William Barr, made a contentious appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, last week, no other Administration officials have agreed to testify.
The fight between Trump and Congress will end up in the courts, but Toobin says the courts’ tendency to deal with these issues on “a case-by-case basis” instead of examining the overall problem of Trump’s blanket stonewalling may all Trump to keep stalling indefinitely.
But this approach by the courts—adjudicating one Administration claim of defiance at a time—will miss the point in the current era. There has never been a President who directed an open campaign of total defiance against another branch of government. It is simply misleading to consider these claims in isolation from one another, because the President has acknowledged that they are part of a coördinated campaign. The law has no clear mechanism for adjudicating these claims together—but they belong together. Trump is leading a political campaign, and it calls for a political, not just judicial, response.
Toobin thinks this could even interfere with the process of impeachment. I guess we are going to find out eventually.
The New York Times: White House Asked McGahn to Declare Trump Never Obstructed Justice.
White House officials asked at least twice in the past month for the key witness against President Trump in the Mueller report, Donald F. McGahn II, to say publicly that he never believed the president obstructed justice, according to two people briefed on the requests.
Mr. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to Mr. McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel, one of the people said. Mr. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, who believed that Mr. McGahn showed disloyalty by telling investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about Mr. Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation.
The White House made one of the requests to Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, before the Mueller report was released publicly but after the Justice Department gave a copy to Mr. Trump’s lawyers in the preceding days. Reading the report, the president’s lawyers saw that Mr. Mueller left out that Mr. McGahn had told investigators that he believed the president never obstructed justice. Mr. Burck had told them months earlier about his client’s belief on the matter and that he had shared it with investigators.
Mr. McGahn initially entertained the White House request. “We did not perceive it as any kind of threat or something sinister,” Mr. Burck said in a statement. “It was a request, professionally and cordially made.” A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a message seeking comment.
But after the report was released, detailing the range of actions Mr. Trump took to try to impede the inquiry, Mr. McGahn decided to pass on putting out a statement supportive of the president. The report also revealed that Mr. Trump told aides he believed Mr. McGahn had leaked to the news media to make himself look good.
President Donald Trump told POLITICO on Friday that it would be “appropriate” for him to speak to Attorney General Bill Barr about launching an investigation into his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, or his son, Hunter.
The question of whether Trump could pressure Barr to probe Biden is coming under scrutiny after Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said he would be traveling to Ukraine to urge the incoming government there to look at Hunter Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company that has reportedly been in prosecutors’ crosshairs. The efforts appear to be part of a broader campaign by Trump’s allies to damage the former Democratic vice president’s White House campaign and have raised questions about whether Trump’s team is trying to enlist a foreign government to aid the president’s re-election bid.
“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing to speak to him about, but I have not done that as of yet. … It could be a very big situation,” Trump said in a 15-minute telephone interview on Friday afternoon, which stemmed from POLITICO’s inquiries for a separate story.
That should be mind-boggling, but statements like that from the “president” no longer surprise anyone. Trump acts like the dictator of a banana republic, and no one is shocked anymore.
Here’s more evidence from Trump’s belief that he’s a tin-pot dictator. The Washington Post: Trump takes over Fourth of July celebration, changing its location and inserting himself into the program.
President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.
The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.
Fireworks on the Mall, which the National Park Service has orchestrated for more than half a century, draw hundreds of thousands of Americans annually and mark one of the highlights of the city’s tourist season. The event has been broadcast live on television since 1947 and since 1981 has been accompanied by a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol featuring high-profile musicians and a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra….
The revised Independence Day celebration is the culmination of two years of attempts by Trump to create a major patriotic event centered on him and his supporters, including failed efforts to mount a military parade modeled on the Bastille Day celebration in France. The new event has become a top priority for new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, whom Trump tasked with the job three months ago, officials said.
The president has received regular briefings on the effort in the Oval Office and has gotten involved in the minutiae of the planning — even discussing whether the fireworks should be launched from a barge in the Potomac River, administration aides said. The president has shown interest in the event that he often does not exhibit for other administration priorities, the aides added.
Because Trump is so incompetent that he mostly focuses on minutia–and that’s also what he apparently did in his business career, according to Trump ghostwriter Charles Leerhsen, in an essay for Yahoo News: Exclusive: Trump, the billion-dollar loser — I was his ghostwriter and saw it happen.
On Tuesday, the New York Times scooped the world on the news that from 1985 to 1994, Donald Trump incurred the biggest business losses of any single taxpayer in American history. What was it like for him to lose more than $1 billion in a decade? Was he perpetually ashen-faced with fear? Or smirking at the thought of outwitting the IRS “for sport,” as he said in a Wednesday morning tweet?
I happen to know, because from late 1988 to 1990, I was his ghostwriter, working on a book that would be called “Surviving at the Top.” Right in the middle of this period, I can tell you that the answer is that he was neither. Except for an occasional passing look of queasiness, or anger, when someone came into his Trump Tower office and whispered the daily win/loss numbers at his Atlantic City casinos, he seemed to be bored out of his mind.
According to Leerhsen Trump spent most of his time looking at fabric swatches.
Trump’s portfolio did not jibe with what I saw each day — which to a surprisingly large extent was him looking at fabric swatches. Indeed, flipping through fabric swatches seemed at times to be his main occupation. Some days he would do it for hours, then take me in what he always called his “French military helicopter” to Atlantic City — where he looked at more fabric swatches or sometimes small samples of wood paneling. It was true that the carpets and drapes at his properties needed to be refreshed frequently, and the seats on the renamed Trump Shuttle required occasional reupholstering. But the main thing about fabric swatches was that they were within his comfort zone — whereas, for example, the management of hotels and airlines clearly wasn’t. One of his aides once told me that every room at the Plaza could be filled at the “rack rate” (list price) every night, and the revenue still wouldn’t cover the monthly payment of the loan he’d taken out to buy the place. In other words, he’d made a ridiculous deal. Neither he nor the banks had done the math beforehand. Or perhaps Trump knew it because someone had told him, but didn’t want to think about it. The one thing he is above-average at is compartmentalization.
On days when there were no broadlooms or chenilles to ponder, we would sit around his office and shoot the breeze while (as we now know) out there someplace in the real world, his businesses were hemorrhaging cash. He’d talk about the Yankees, show me pictures of Marla Maples (whom he was then romancing while still married to Ivana) and tell me obviously made-up stories, such as how he had just the other day seen a beautiful, completely naked woman on the street. “Put that in the book!” he’d say, and I’d pretend to write it down.
Please go read the whole thing. It’s hilarious until you realize that Trump is probably doing the same thing in the Oval Office when he isn’t trying to start investigations into his political enemies.
I’ll end there. I know there is lots of other news for us to discuss. Please share your own thoughts and links in the comment thread below.