Thursday Reads: White House Chaos Grows Even Worse

Lady reading in the garden Niels Frederik Schiottz-Jenson

Good Morning!!

I’m still reading The Devil’s Bargain, the new book on Trump and Steve Bannon by Joshua Green. I should have finished it by now, but there has been so much news the last few days that I’ve been riveted to the internet and TV instead. Actually, yesterday I was struggling to concentrate on anything. This Trump nightmare is really getting to me. I need to find better ways to cope without completely zoning out.

Anyway, the book is both fascinating and horrifying. It turns out that Trump’s great wall was an idea that came from Roger Stone and his protege Sam Nunberg. They came up with the concept because they were trying to find a way to keep their cognitively impaired candidate talking about immigration.

Trump was vehemently pro-immigration back in 2012 when he attacked Mitt Romney for pushing “self-deportation.” Trump’s entire anti-immigration message was nothing but a carnival stunt to attract the rubes. And Bannon is the one who got Trump to keep talking about it. Trump wasn’t even interested in “the wall” until he brought it up in a speech at the January 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit and the audience went wild. So Bannon was a huge influence even back then.

I don’t know why I’m still shocked by this kind of cynicism, but I am. I wonder if Trump actually believed any of the garbage that comes out of his oddly misshapen mouth.

Now Trump has hired a new “communication director” who could be even more flamboyantly cynical–and stupid–than his boss. He’s not even supposed to be on the job yet, but he’s already making a very public fool of himself. Last night he sent out a tweet (now deleted) in which he seemed to accused Reince Priebus of leaking his publicly available financial disclosure form. Then this morning he called into CNN and ranted for about 30 minutes about White House leaks.

Woman reading a newspaper, Norman Garstin

Politico: Scaramucci claims ‘felony’ over report of public disclosures.

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Wednesday he will contact federal agencies over the “leak” of his financial disclosures, which he called a “felony,” despite the forms being publicly accessible.

“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45” Scaramucci tweeted late Wednesday.

The tweet followed POLITICO’s publication of Scaramucci’s financial disclosures filed in the course of his employment with the Export-Import Bank. The documents are publicly available on request.

Scaramucci subsequently deleted the tweet and replaced it with another disavowing widespread speculation that his message implied that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus should be investigated. “Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince 45.”

Speaking to CNN’s New Day co-host Chris Cuomo Thursday morning, Scaramucci acknowledged that the documents are available publicly but still denounced leaks.

Read CNN’s report on Scaramucci’s embarrassing call-in: Scaramucci: ‘If Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that.’

An even better and more succinct report in a thread from Yashar Ali on Twitter. Head over to Twitter to read the whole thing.

Also see this piece by Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Anthony Scaramucci Is Unclear on the Concept of the Legal System.

Despite possessing a degree from Harvard Law School, Anthony Scaramucci does not seem to possess an understanding of basic principles of the Anglo-American legal tradition. First, Scaramucci accused putative chief of staff and Scaramucci blood-rival Reince Priebus of having illegally leaked his disclosure form. (The leak was not illegal and turns out to have been a public disclosure notice.) Scaramucci’s embarrassment at this gaffe has not discouraged him from pursuing a quasi-judicial purge.

The new White House communications director has gone on television to boast that he is interfering with the justice system in violation of written rules:

More at the NY Mag. link.

Scaramucci’s outrage is over the revelation that he has a serious conflict of interest, because he is currently trying to sell his hedge fund business to a Chinese conglomerate and would need administration approval to do so. Here’s the original story at Politico: Scaramucci still stands to profit from SkyBridge from the White House.

Anthony Scaramucci finally has his White House job, but he still stands to profit from an ownership stake in his investment firm SkyBridge Capital.

The incoming White House communications director earned $4.9 million from his ownership stake in SkyBridge in addition to more than $5 million in salary between Jan. 1, 2016, and the end of June, when he joined the Export-Import Bank, according to a financial disclosure filed with the Office of Government Ethics….

The disclosure highlights the extensive wealth Scaramucci has accumulated in his career — much like many of Trump’s other top advisers and Cabinet secretaries — and also the challenge he faces in extracting himself from the potential conflicts his investments could pose.

The SkyBridge website continues to advertise Scaramucci as the firm’s managing director, despite the fact that he has been a government employee for more than a month. Speaking of a website, to make your website on the top of search results, consider the SEO services of Big Vision Marketing. A SkyBridge spokeswoman said Scaramucci stepped down from the executive post Jan. 17, when the company’s sale was announced. He remained an employee of the firm, collecting a salary, until starting at Ex-Im last month.

The investment firm, which Scaramucci founded in 2005, is in the process of being sold to RON Transatlantic and Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. The sale, set in motion in January when Scaramucci was shedding his holdings in anticipation of landing an administration job, has drawn the scrutiny of regulators and is taking longer than expected to close.

The interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is examining the deal to ensure that it carries no risk to national security. The panel’s review, which comes amid ramped-up scrutiny of business dealings with China, ultimately can be overruled by President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump himself just committed another impeachable offense by attempting to blackmail Sen. Lisa Murkowski and the citizens of Alaska through his Interior Secretary. From Alaska Dispatch News: Trump administration threatens retribution against Alaska over Murkowski health votes.

President Donald Trump isn’t going to just let go of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s no vote on Tuesday’s health care.

Early Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to express displeasure with Murkowski’s vote. By that afternoon, each of Alaska’s two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.

Francis Coates Jones, artist

The response follows Trump’s no-holds-barred style of governing, even when it comes to his own party. It is his first strike of retaliation against Murkowski, however, despite her tendency to stray from the party line and the president’s priorities.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the call from Zinke heralded a “troubling message.”

“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said.

“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear,” Sullivan said. The Interior secretary also contacted Murkowski, he said.

Can this administration get any more chaotic? My guess is that, with Trump and Scaramucci working together, the answer is yes. Keep in mind that lesser chaos agent Steve Bannon was strongly opposed to the hiring of Scaramucci. He’s also opposed to firing Jeff Sessions, but apparently Trump family members are all for it, and Trump has forgotten all about the risks Sessions too by endorsing him early on. Check out this Business Insider article: Bannon convinced Jeff Sessions to endorse Trump, and Sessions worried his career in the Republican Party might end because of it.

As Joshua Green wrote in “Devil’s Bargain,” Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, was unsure if Trump could secure the Republican nomination, and knew that being the first senator to endorse Trump could further curtail his political future if Trump, the Republican frontrunner at the time, lost.

The day before Sessions endorsed Trump at a Madison, Alabama rally in February 2016, then-Breitbart News chairman Bannon told Sessions that it was “do or die” time and that “this is the moment” to endorse.

Jacek Malczewski, artist

“Trump is a great advocate for our ideas,” Sessions told Bannon. “But can he win?”

“100%,” Bannon said. “If he can stick to your message and personify this stuff, there’s not a doubt in my mind.”

Sessions then noted that the GOP already denied him the chairmanship of the Budget Committee, and that “if I do this endorsement and it doesn’t work, it’s the end of my career in the Republican Party.”

“It’s do or die,” Bannon replied. “This is it. This is the moment.”

That moment was just days before what are known as the “SEC” primaries — a series of primary contests concentrated throughout the South. Bannon told Sessions that his endorsement could push Trump over the hump in many of those contests and essentially seal up the Republican nomination.

“Okay, I’m all-in,” Sessions said. “But if he doesn’t win, it’s over for me.”

No wonder Sessions is refusing to step down as Attorney General.

It looks like today is going to be another day of fast-breaking news. I hope I can keep myself from getting as stressed-out as I was yesterday. What stories are you following?


Something is happening here, Mr. Jones

First you read about Nome, Alaska. It’s had such tough weather, a Russian tanker and a US Coast Guard icebreaker are painstakingly trying to deliver emergency fuel supplies. icebreaker in field of sea ice The icebreaker is facing backward because [T]he ice is under so much pressure, it closes up almost as soon as it’s broken. So the ship has to double back and re-break it. [Update: The view is from the icebreaker toward the tanker, which is facing forward. The icebreaker does double back, but that’s not what the picture shows. Sorry for the brain fart.]

You get the picture. Very severe winter in Alaska. They’ve declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard. That’s in Alaska, where they are anything but pansies about winter.

satellite image of snow-covered Europe Now, a year or two back, Siberia and China had super-deep winters. Last year, Europe was in a deep freeze and showing up all white on satellite photos.

And then I remembered that the Europeans had connected their deep freeze with climate change. It works like this. As the Arctic sea ice melts, there’s more dark ocean to absorb the sun’s heat and less white ice to reflect it back. The overlying polar winter air is then much colder than the surface. Warm air rises, but the displaced cold polar air has to come down somewhere. And that place is south (and also north, I would guess) of the unnaturally warm zone. (It’s all horribly cold by our standards, but our standards don’t count.) So places like Siberia and Scotland get more snow and cold and the sea freezes thicker and harder. Maybe Alaska is just joining the club.

Isn’t messing with Nature fun? You never know what to expect.

Cross-posted from Acid Test