Emboldened in his job, Mr. Trump has rebelled against Kelly’s restrictions and mused about doing away with the chief of staff post entirely. It’s all leading White House staffers and Trump allies to believe that Kelly is working on borrowed time….
Mr. Trump recently told one confidant that he was “tired of being told no” by Kelly and has instead chosen to simply not tell Kelly things at all, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
As if the fake “president” didn’t have enough humiliations to deal with this morning, Time Magazine has delivered a crushing blow to his ego, announcing Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists as their “Person of the Year.”
Time magazine has announced its 2018 Person of the Year is “The Guardians,” four individuals and one group — all journalists — who this year helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world.
They are the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributing columnist who was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland; journalist Maria Ressa, the CEO of the Rappler news website, who has been made a legal target in the Philippines; and journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for nearly a year for their work exposing the mass killing of Rohingya Muslims.
“As we looked at the choices, it became clear that the manipulation and the abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year’s major stories, from Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley,” Time magazine editor Edward Felsenthal said on the “Today” show Tuesday morning, where the announcement was made.
“The manipulation and abuse of truth” is a pretty clear reference to Trump’s governing style.
Here’s Time’s cover story: The Guardians and the War on Truth.
The stout man with the gray goatee and the gentle demeanor dared to disagree with his country’s government. He told the world the truth about its brutality toward those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it.
Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.
But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?
Khashoggi put his faith in bearing witness. He put it in the field reporting he had done since youth, in the newspaper editorship he was forced out of and in the columns he wrote from lonely exile. “Must we choose,” he asked in the Washington Post in May, “between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?” Khashoggi had fled his homeland last year even though he actually supported much of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agenda in Saudi Arabia. What irked the kingdom and marked the journalist for death was Khashoggi’s insistence on coming to that conclusion on his own, tempering it with troubling facts and trusting the public to think for itself.
Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen. Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.
Trump and his gullible son-in-law Jared Kushner won’t be happy about this. Plus, yesterday CNN published quotes from the transcript of the recording of the Kashoggi murder: ‘I can’t breathe.’ Jamal Khashoggi’s last words disclosed in transcript, source says.
“I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.
The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.
During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him.
“I can’t breathe,” Khashoggi says.
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
The transcript notes the sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered by a saw, as the alleged perpetrators are advised to listen to music to block out the sound.
And, according to the source, the transcript suggests that a series of phone calls are made. Turkish officials believe the calls were placed to senior figures in Riyadh, briefing them on progress.
In other humiliations, the fake “president” decided to humiliate Chief of Staff John Kelly by announcing his firing without any warning, and then the fake “president” was in turn humiliated by his choice to replace Kelly. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair:
On Friday night, members of Donald Trump’s West Wing gathered for drinks at the Trump International Hotel following a holiday dinner at the White House. As they mingled in the lobby, Bill Shine, Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and others grappled with the latest West Wing upheaval: Trump had changed the plan and fired Chief of Staff John Kellyearlier that afternoon. “It got back to Trump that Kelly was bad-mouthing him and Trump had decided he’d had enough. His attitude was, ‘fuck him,’” an attendee told me.
Kelly’s defenestration surprised few people—Trump had wanted to fire him for months—but the lingering problem had been finding a replacement whom Trump felt comfortable with (and who wanted the job). “The president really wanted someone he knows. He didn’t want to gamble,” a former West Wing official said. After weeks of lobbying by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump had been convinced that Mike Pence’s 36-year-old chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was the best candidate. On Friday afternoon, Trump met with Ayers, Pence, and Kelly and finalized the transition, a source briefed on the meeting said. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday.
But Trump’s frustration with Kelly boiled over after Kelly pressed him to name his deputy Zachary Fuentes interim chief of staff. “Trump didn’t like how Kelly was trying to dictate the terms of his departure,” a Republican briefed on the discussions told me. Trump blew up the carefully orchestrated announcement and told reporters on Saturday as he walked to Marine One that Kelly would be leaving by the end of the year. “John wanted to announce his own departure. This was a humiliation,” a former West Wing official said.
Trump’s impulsive announcement quickly became an even bigger problem when it turned out that Kelly’s replacement was not sewn up; Ayers surprised Trump later that day by insisting that he only wanted the job short term. “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said.
And to make sure the humiliation of the fake “president” was complete, Ayers announced his departure on Twitter.
Now Trump is left with no one to humiliate in the formerly prestigious Chief of Staff job. The Washington Post: ‘There was no Plan B’: Trump scrambles to find chief of staff after top candidate turns him down.
After announcing the exit of his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and being turned down by his pick to replace him, Nick Ayers, Trump found himself Monday in an unexpected predicament — scrambling to recruit someone to help run the executive branch of the federal government and guide the administration through the political tumult and possible legal peril ahead.
In any White House, the chief of staff is arguably the most punishing position. But in this White House — a den of disorder ruled by an impulsive president — it has proved to be an especially thankless job. The two people to hold the job were left with their reputations diminished after failing to constrain the president, who often prefers to function as his own chief of staff.
Three members of Trump’s Cabinet who have been discussed inside the West Wing as possible chiefs of staff — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer — each signaled Monday that they were not interested in the position.
Considerable buzz has centered on two other contenders. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) noted his interest in the job by issuing a statement saying that “serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor.”
“It is not something I have been campaigning for,” Meadows told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill, adding that his phone “blew up” after the Ayers news broke. “The president has a good list of candidates. I’m honored to be one of those.”
And acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, who traveled with Trump to Kansas City, Mo., last week , is seen by the president and his allies as a loyalist.
But Trump’s advisers and aides cautioned that there was not yet a front-runner.
Although aides said the president is committed to finding a replacement for Kelly before the Christmas holiday, they said he has been vacillating — casting about in all corners for potential picks and frustrated by news coverage depicting his White House as a place where talented people do not want to work.
Why would anyone want to work for Trump? I guess it will have to be someone whose reputation is already in tatters. I can’t imagine anyone who has hopes for a future career being interested. That description could apply to Whitaker, but how could he get a security clearance when he’s associated with a company that is under investigation for fraud?
Of course Trump is claiming he has multiple applicants for the job.
That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?
Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
There’s a memorial ceremony going on in New York City, but Trump is in Shanksville, Pennsylvania for a Flight 93 event. I suppose he figured he wouldn’t be welcome in New York and he might get more votes out Pennsylvania. Anyway, this is a photo of his embarrassing behavior on arrival there.
This buffoon is not capable of acting appropriately in any situation. Remember when we had a dignified president?
Trump started the day with a series of tweets about his obsession with the Russia investigation and his campaign to destroy his own Department of Justice. NBC News:
President Donald Trump began the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by tweeting about the FBI, claims of possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia, and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
The tweets, apparently rehashing reports on Fox Business Network and Fox News, came as the president was traveling to a scheduled appearance at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania — the site where one of the planes hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, crashed into a field.First, right after 7:00 a.m., Trump, appearing to quote from a Fox Business Network segment, tweeted, “‘We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia, absolutely zero, but every day we get more documentation showing collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign, foreign spies & Russians, incredible.’ @SaraCarterDC @LouDobbs.”
Lou Dobbs is a Fox Business anchor, while Sara Carter is a Fox News contributor. She posted an article Monday night alleging that officials from the FBI and Justice Department leaked information to the media.
The “leak strategy” That the moron in chief and other idiots complained about was an effort by Peter Strzok to stop leaks from the FBI.
“The term ‘media leak strategy’ in Mr. Strzok’s text refers to a Department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media. The President and his enablers are once again peddling unfounded conspiracy theories to mislead the American people,” Goelman said.
Read the tweets and more at the link. This is the “president.” he spends most of his time sitting around watching TV and tweeting ignorant nonsense and the rest ranting at his staff or at paid audiences at his Hitler-style rallies.
Seventeen years out from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the nation comes together Tuesday to mourn and remember a day that changed history.
The country watched in horror as hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The attack killed 2,996 people, making it the deadliest foreign attack ever on U.S. soil.
Ceremonies begin in New York City on the 9/11 Memorial plaza at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. Family members of victims of the 2001 and 1993 attacks, and they have been invited to participate in this year’s reading of the names.
President Donald Trump will pay tribute to the victims at a ceremony in western Pennsylvania. First lady Melania Trump will accompany her husband to the event.
The Shanksville ceremony will include the sounds of the Tower of Voices, a 93-foot-tall concrete and steel structure featuring a wind chime for each person on board with its own distinctive sound. The tower is the final phase of the 2,200-acre Flight 93 National Memorial.
The site is live streaming both events.
In other news, a powerful category 4 hurricane is bearing down on the mid-Atlantic coast and and another is bearing down on the Trump White House in the form of Bob Woodward’s book, which was released today.
From the ABC News 11 (Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, NC area): Hurricane Florence remains dangerous Cat 4 storm as it heads toward the Carolinas.
Hurricane Florence continues to be a dangerous Category 4 storm as it steams toward the U.S. East Coast, but a new wrinkle in the Gulf could affect its path.
It’s too early to know for sure, but a disturbance in the Gulf could form into Tropical Storm Joyce and potentially push Florence’s track northward — good news for many parts of North Carolina.
That’s just a possibility at this point, according to Chief Meteorologist Chris Hohmann.
So the situation is still fluid.
The Washington Post: Hurricane Florence: Watches posted as “extremely dangerous” storm churns toward Carolinas.
Large and violent Florence is continuing on a beeline toward the East Coast as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane. Catastrophic flooding and destructive winds are becoming very likely in the eastern Carolinas.
Forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern South Carolina and North Carolina’s Outer Banks as a strong Category 3 on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs.
The National Hurricane Center is warning of an “extremely dangerous” triple threat in the Carolinas and Virginia:
1) A “life-threatening storm surge” at the coast — a rise in ocean water over normally dry land.
2) “Life-threatening freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event” from the coast to interior sections.
3) “Damaging hurricane-force winds” at the coast and some distance inland.
Like Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over Texas in 2017, Florence could linger over the Southeast for several days after landfall unloading 15 to 20 inches of rain and isolated amounts to 30 inches. The Hurricane Center said this “could produce catastrophic flash flooding.” […..]
More than 1.5 million people have already been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm, due to both destructive winds and storm surge which could place normally dry land under at least 10 feet of water.
Read more at the WaPo.
On the Woodward book, I highly recommend this review at Slate by Isaac Chotiner: Nobody’s Heroes: Bob Woodward’s new book presents Trump staffers as our last line of defense. We’re doomed.
Nearly 300 pages into Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, a West Wing aide named Zach Fuentes cautions fellow staffers. With depressingly familiar words, Fuentes informs his colleagues, “He’s not a detail guy. Never put more than one page in front of him. Even if he’ll glance at it, he’s not going to read the whole thing. Make sure you underline or put in bold the main points … you’ll have 30 seconds to talk to him. If you haven’t grabbed his attention, he won’t focus.” Some subjects, such as the military, do engage him, but the overwhelming picture is worrying and dire. Still, one could finish this passage and feel at least slightly relieved that people like Fuentes are aware of the reigning deficiencies in the White House, and doing their best to mitigate them.
Fuentes is merely an assistant to John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, but Kelly and James Mattis, the secretary of defense, are presented throughout Woodward’s book as being cognizant of the president’s extreme limitations and authoritarian instincts, and rather boldly willing to push back against their boss. This is why it’s probably worth mentioning that Fuentes wasn’t talking about Donald Trump; no, he was talking about John Kelly. And Woodward’s book—which arrived at around the same time as the already infamous, still-currently anonymous New York Times op-ed about the men and women in the executive branch supposedly working to protect America from Donald Trump—is as much a portrait of the craven, ineffective, and counterproductive group of “adults” surrounding Trump as it is a more predictable look into the president’s shortcomings. It’s not entirely clear how aware Woodward is of what he has revealed about the people he’s quoting at length. (Sources tend to come off well in his books.) But intentionally or not, Fear will make plain to the last optimist that, just as Republicans in Congress are unlikely to save us, neither are the relative grown-ups in the Trump administration.
(Emphasis added.) It’s a frightening but important read.
One more on Trump’s reactions to the book from Politico’s Annie Karni: Trump’s assault on Woodward riddled with contradictions.
President Donald Trump has called journalist Bob Woodward’s book on his administration a work of “fiction” and a “scam,” claiming that quotes in the book are “made up” and that the author is a “liar.”
At the same time, sources familiar with his thinking said he is livid at his former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and his former staff secretary, Rob Porter, for “leaking” to Woodward.
It’s difficult to rationally argue that the book could be both: fiction dreamed up by Woodward, and a betrayal by former top stewards of the administration, who shared with the famed journalist alarming details about how the White House functions.
But it’s not hard for Trump, who often spouts two opposing views intended for different audiences. And his supporters often soak up the contradictory claims just as readily as he spits them out, taking it all in stride.
More Trump insanity at the link.I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?
Happy Mother’s Day….
Or as one person in the Twitterverse puts it:
(If you aren’t following @OhNoSheTwitnt you should…)
It is a strange Mother’s Day for me, I am not sure how to approach the day. My mom’s results from her latest CT scan were not good. The chemo treatment has not been working, there is new tumor and it looks like she has run out of options. So today, on this Mother’s Day, I am faced with the reality that eventually I will be spending a Mother’s Day without my Mama. I don’t want that. And this sense of eminent loss is so overwhelming, that my days are becoming a cycle of playbacks. When she is up, I want to watch a movie with her…whatever she wants to watch. I want to spend that time laughing at funny scenes, or enjoying a film that we both appreciate. It is the same thing daily, and believe me…we have seen some of these films many times, but I want to capture those feelings once more. I don’t want to lose them. That is what it comes down to this Mother’s Day. Grasping those hours so that I can recycle them later…it is all I can do.
So, with all that being said, the disasters of the day seem to pass by me…until I watch Maddow, then I am back into my mood where I am unable to focus on anything. Here are some news stories for you this morning, my commentary on them will be minimal at best. Basically, the shit has gone beyond my comprehension of what kind of corruption and scandal it takes to bring a politician down. tRump could kill someone on Fifth Avenue, and get away with it…and still remain in the White House as President. I don’t think anything is going to happen, it is over. We are all fucked.
Now for the news:
Take a look at this thread on twitter:
Now, check this out:
Fox Host Jeanine Pirro says Donald Trump fulfilled biblical prophecy by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
Full video at the link.
Here is the quote:
The move, she said, “Sent a huge signal to Iran, and Shiite Muslims, that we stood with the more moderate Sunnis.” (ISIS and Al Qaida are both Sunni; there has never been a major terrorist attack on the United States led by a Shiite group.)
“Trump has assured the world that his word is worth more than any former U.S. president,” she said. “His word is more than any treaty, and stronger than any UN resolution.”
And then she got Biblical.
“Jerusalem is the one and only capital of Israel,” she said. “By Trump putting his impermada on what has been history for the last 3,000 years—and that’s it has been the people’s capital of one people’s country or one kingdom. That people is the Jews and that country is Israel.”
She said that Israel is the foundation of our Judeo-Christian nation.
“Donald Trump recognized history, he like King Cyrus before him, fulfilled the Biblical prophecy of the God worshipped by Jews, Christians and, yes, Muslims, that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state and that the Jewish people finally deserve a righteous, free and sovereign Israel.”
With Fox peddling these “coins” that have the tRump is King Cyrus symbolism propoganda…it adds to the rest of the big picture.
A former senior campaign and transition aide to President Donald Trump recently inked a deal to help a Russian oligarch’s conglomerate shed sanctions the Trump administration slapped on them last month.Bryan Lanza, who is in regular contact with White House officials, is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, an energy and aluminum firm presently controlled by Oleg Deripaska, according to several sources. Deripaska is a billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was the target of US sanctions imposed last month. Lanza is also a CNN contributor.Lanza is representing the chairman of EN+ Group, but not Deripaska directly. The company is seeking to reduce Deripaska’s ownership in the company enough to be freed from US sanctions. Deripaska is expected to maintain a substantial stake in the company.
You can read about more tRump lobby connections at the link. Names like Corey Lewandowski, Brian Ballard, Jason Miller have all opened up their own DC firms. All the while, keep in mind:
But…it is all just a normal day in Washington:
Oh, this also happened on the quiet:
Energy Secretary Rick Perry has formally ended construction of a facility meant to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium and uranium into fuel for reactors, a key element of the nation’s commitment to containing the global nuclear threat.
Perry executed a waiver Thursday to terminate construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
A day earlier, Perry called it a “historically questionable” expenditure in testimony before Congress about the Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal, which includes $220 million toward closing the project, and $59 million toward replacing it with a so-called “dilute and dispose” approach to surplus nuclear material.
Yeah, King Cyprus…I mean tRump is gonna need all those nukes to “dilute and dispose” of over there in Iran…right?
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister is in China as part of a whirlwind diplomatic tour, to rescue the agreement.
Video report at the link.
Just one more thought on hardship…and motherhood…
John Kelly, White House chief of staff, is an immigrant-hating bigot, as demonstrated by a long series of Draconian statements and measures that would have embarrassed most normal people into a lifetime vow of silence in their wake.
Kelly bizarrely defended Confederate slave drivers of the 1860s as having lived at a time before the evils of slavery were apparent to moral people. Haiti abolished slavery in 1804, Mexico in 1824 and Tunisia in 1846. But Kelly’s assertion becomes a little more understandable in view of his NPR interview on May 11.
On undocumented immigration, Kelly’s interview went like this:
Kelly: “But a big name of the game is deterrence.”
NPR: “Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.”
Kelly: “It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.”
NPR: “Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?”
Kelly: “I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”
Kelly’s doctrine of “deterrence” of undocumented immigration into the US through family separation is undergirded by a special kind of sadism and ignorance combined. First of all, villagers in Honduras are not going to know about Kelly’s policy. Second, they are so desperate that many will take the risk anyway. Third, it is wrong to pounce and take US citizen children away from their mothers and fathers all of a sudden, giving them no time to make alternate arrangements. As for foster homes, with all due respect to the dedicated people who often run them, social science has proven that they are the biggest producer of a criminal class in the US. Children growing up without strong parental role models have a much greater chance of ending up in prison. Yes, that’s right. Social science says that if you want a safe society, don’t deport the parents of US citizen children.
Under Trump, ICE (which was only created recently and should be decommissioned) has been routinely doing things like traumatizing families by arresting undocumented parents when they come to pick up their children at school, in front of the eyes of the children, and leaving the latter unattended. The agents are not wrong to enforce the law, but this sort of tactic is clearly the result of instructions from Kelly and his successor, and is deliberate psychological warfare on American citizens.
Kelly’s self-satisfaction with getting rid of unwanted adults and putting their children, our fellow US citizens, in “foster care or whatever” (!!!) can only be compared to one phenomenon in American history.
Back in the days of slavery, white slave owners in the mid-Atlantic states like Kentucky used to separate fathers and sometimes mothers from their children and “sell them down the river” to the big plantation owners of the deep south.
Brown and black slaves were, like undocumented immigrants, not citizens and so they were not conceived by white elites as fully human persons. Hence, their families could be divided at will and parents could be sent far away, never to see their children again. They were treated like thoroughbred animals.
Kelly went on to slam these immigrants for not knowing English and for being unassimilable and having no skills. In fact, as conservative godfather Milton Friedman argued, they wouldn’t come here if they weren’t finding jobs that locals would not or could not fill. As for language and assimilation, Kelly’s own Italian-American side of the family came without English and remained here without citizenship for decades.
Cole then proceeds to quote the tweets showing Kelly’s own family background, which proves John Kelly’s own family members is one of those “illiterate” immigrants “and could not speak English 10 years after arrival.” Yeah, these people…wtf is it with them?
And while all that is sinking in…this tweet should really be the icing on the Mother’s Day cake:
I don’t want to end on a bad note…
So, I have pictures.
First some fun ones:
DragCon is happening this weekend:
Those kick ass heels…a bit of marginalia to ring in the occasion? Quinn Cummings has been posting some awesome pictures on her Instagram feed:
So please click the link up top and enjoy!
Sticking with the Medieval times a bit:
Elvis…he was a style icon…before he became a style icon!
And lastly, I wanted to share a few pictures from my daughter’s wedding, they are in a slideshow below.
Have a good day, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!
This is an open thread.
I’ve been trying to find out where Trump is this weekend. I haven’t heard anything about him going to Florida, and I’m afraid that may mean there will be more chaos in the White House over the weekend. Will Scott Pruitt lose his job? Or will Trump really try to use him to replace Jeff Sessions? Is Trump really preparing to talk to Robert Mueller, as CNN reports?
President Donald Trump has begun the initial steps of preparing for a possible interview with the special counsel, a White House official and a person familiar with the situation said Friday, a sign the President’s legal team is intensifying its deliberations over whether to allow him to come under Robert Mueller’s questioning.
One source familiar with the proceedings stressed the preparation efforts is “in its infancy.”
The preparations have been short and informal and included going over potential topics with the President that Mueller would likely raise in an interview, the people said.
The President has not formally agreed to sit for an interview with Mueller.
But word of early preparations is the clearest sign yet that Trump and his team remain open to an interview with Mueller, despite concerns from some people close to the President that such an interview could expose him to possible charges of perjury.
According to Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair, Trump is now targeting one of his last “adult” advisers: Running Out of Punching Bags, Trump Turns on Mattis.
Until recently, Donald Trump’s campaign to purge naysayers had spared the Pentagon. In the absence of more proximate targets, however, it appears the president has turned his attention to foreign policy, jeopardizing his relationship with perhaps his only remaining sane adviser. Indeed, in the past week, Trump has made James Mattis’s job nearly impossible by declaring that he would send the military to guard the border with Mexico (the White House later clarified that he meant the National Guard), and insisting that the U.S. pull out of Syria (something Mattis promised last year would not happen), leading to a spectacular showdown on Tuesday, when the conflict between Trump and his generals reportedly boiled over during a meeting of top aides in the Situation Room.
According to the Associated Press, Mattis argued “that an immediate withdrawal” from Syria “could be catastrophic and was logistically impossible to pull off in any responsible way,” and offered a one-year timeline as an alternative—to which Trump responded that five or six months ought to do the trick, and “indicated that he did not want to hear in October that the military had been unable to fully defeat the Islamic State and had to remain in Syria for longer.” A person familiar with the meeting told CNN that attendees left Tuesday’s meeting “beside themselves,” arguing that Trump’s lack of desire to put together any sort of recovery plan for Syria—restoring basic needs such as water, power, and roads—would most certainly tip the country back into ISIS’s hands. “It is a huge gamble that ISIS is not going to come back and that we are going to rely on others to stabilize Syria,” an official said.
The same official noted the hypocrisy in Trump’s choice: “The president blasted Obama for a timeline in Iraq, but that is in essence what we have been given.”
It wasn’t the result top national security aides wanted. Trump’s desire for a rapid withdrawal faced unanimous opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community, all of which argued that keeping the 2,000 U.S. soldiers currently in Syria is key to ensuring the Islamic State does not reconstitute itself.
But as they huddled in the Situation Room, the president was vocal and vehement in insisting that the withdrawal be completed quickly if not immediately, according to five administration officials briefed on Tuesday’s White House meeting of Trump and his top aides. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations and requested anonymity.
If those aides failed in obtaining their desired outcome, it may have been because a strategy that’s worked in the past — giving Trump an offer he can’t refuse — appears to have backfired.
Rather than offer Trump a menu of pullout plans, with varying timelines and options for withdrawing step-by-step, the team sought to frame it as a binary choice: Stay in Syria to ensure the Islamic State can’t regroup, or pull out completely. Documents presented to the president included several pages of possibilities for staying in, but only a brief description of an option for full withdrawal that emphasized significant risks and downsides, including the likelihood that Iran and Russia would take advantage of a U.S. vacuum.
Ultimately, Trump chose that option anyway.
Will Mattis resign if Trump insists on pulling the U.s. military out of Syria? Or will Trump fire him? John Bolton is expected to begin his job as National Security Adviser on Monday. Will he agree with Trump’s newly formed foreign policy?
Chief of Staff John Kelly has also lost influence on the newly “emboldened” Trump according to CBS News: Trump freezes out chief of staff John Kelly, says he’s “tired of being told ‘no.'”
When President Donald Trump made a congratulatory, White House chief of staff John Kelly wasn’t on the line. When Mr. Trump to be his next national security adviser, Kelly wasn’t in the room.
And when Mr. Trump spent a Mar-a-Lago weekend stewing over immigration and trade, Kelly wasn’t in sight.
Kelly, once empowered to bring order to a turbulent West Wing, has receded from view, his clout diminished, his word less trusted by staff and his guidance less tolerated by an increasingly go-it-alone president.
The stock market isn’t happy with Trump’s push for a trade war. Yahoo News (AP): Stock Market Plummets After Trump Explores $100 Billion in New Chinese Tariffs.
Another increase in trade tensions has stocks falling sharply Friday as the U.S. considers an even larger set of tariffs on imports from China and the two countries exchange pointed statements. Technology companies and banks are taking some of the worst losses.
Stocks have changed direction again and again this week as investors tried to get a sense of whether a trade dispute between the two nations will escalate, an outcome that could have major consequences for the global economy. The market didn’t get any help from a March jobs report that was weaker than expected.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell dropped 581 points, or 2.4 percent, to 23,916 as of 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. Earlier it fell as much as 620 points.
The S&P 500, which many index funds track, lost 53 points, or 2 percent, to 2,608. The Nasdaq composite slid 135 points, or 1.9 percent, to 6,940. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 29 points, or 1.9 percent, to 1,513.
The Dow average, which contains numerous multinational companies including industrial powerhouses Boeing and Caterpillar, has swung dramatically this week, with about 1,300 points separating its highest and lowest marks. It fell as much as 758 points Monday, then recovered all of those losses, and late Thursday it was up as much as 519 points for the week. It’s down 0.7 percent for the week.
Donald Trump has decided to gamble his presidency on the idea that he can threaten big tariffs on China and force the world’s second-largest economy to back down.
If he fails — and the odds are that he will — the fallout from a tariff battle with China could derail an otherwise strong U.S. economy, threaten Republican majorities in the midterm elections and turn the second half of Trump’s first term into a dismal slog to avoid impeachment votes.
So far, the exact scenario that free traders inside the White House and on Capitol Hill feared is playing out. China scoffed at Trump’s initial $50 billion in threatened tariffs and announced their own, aimed directly at Trump’s red-state base with levies on agricultural and manufactured products.
Although Trump has repeatedly bragged about stock market gains since he has been “president,” Bloomberg reports that Trump is now in 8th place in rankings of presidential success with the markets:
The Republican president’s renewed ramblings on trade dominated U.S. equity markets this week, with a tweet-induced swoon on Friday leaving the S&P 500 Index 1.4 percent lower than where it started on Monday. The gauge swung wildly, notching four moves of at least 1 percent in the five days, and the Cboe Volatility Index spiked above 20, nearly double its level for the past year.
All of which has dented Trump’s reputation as the stock market president.
Dow Jones Industrial Average return, if you invested in that basket of stocks, for a president’s first 444 days (ranked since 1900,) per Bloomberg:
FDR : 70.4%
Teddy Roosevelt: 37.4%
Bill Clinton: 32.2%
George H.W. Bush: 21.4%
BTW, according to Think Progress, Trump doesn’t want his trade war to interfere with his daughter’s self-dealing: Ivanka Trump’s clothing company will be spared from tariffs, thanks to her dad.
U.S. officials say they used an algorithm to determine which goods to exclude from new tariffs. According to the Washington Post, the list was drafted to achieve “the lowest consumer impact,” ensuring goods like clothing and toys were excluded so as not to raise the cost on domestic consumer goods.
Exempting clothing from the tariffs provides a big break to American clothing companies that hold trademarks in China. One of those clothing companies belongs to the First Daughter of the United States, Ivanka Trump.
A recent report by the Huffington Post found that the president’s daughter and closest adviser rakes in a total of $1.5 million a year from the Trump Organization while still working at the White House.
Her dual role as adviser to the president and private business executive has continuously raised ethical red flags. No one can be entirely sure that public policy by this administration isn’t being driven by business motives, or whether countries may pursue business deals with the Trump family as a means to curry political favor with the administration.
Once again, I’ve barely touched on all the important news that has broken over the past couple of days. I’ve reached the point of having to shut down for part of every day, because I’m so overwhelmed. Of course I’m not alone it that. In this vein Brian Klaas asks at The Washington Post: Can democracy survive information overload?
Last month, President Trump floated the idea of executing drug dealers; got sued by a porn star and a Playboy model; repeatedly attacked the FBI, his own attorney general and the Justice Department; instigated a trade war that punished long-standing U.S. allies; explicitly praised authoritarian consolidations of power in China and Egypt; “joked” about becoming “president for life”; congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning a sham election and reportedly invited him to the White House right after Russia’s government allegedly attempted to murder a former spy on the soil of the United States’ closest ally.
He also bullied a journalist for his physical appearance; boasted about making up statistics in meetings with Canada’s government; live-tweeted his favorite TV show; fired his secretary of state on Twitter; lost his Veterans Affairs secretary, national security adviser, chief economic adviser, communications director and a personal aide whose reported gambling habit was deemed a security risk; hired a new national security adviser who has repeatedly called to bomb North Korea and Iran; lashed out at the special counsel, who is investigating the president for potential crimes; and threatened to beat up the former vice president of the United States until he cried.
That’s just a small selection of news from March 2018: one crazy month of one crazy presidency.
This inescapable, overwhelming and disorienting flurry of activity, which has become the new normal since Trump’s inauguration, begs two simple but profound questions: Can democracy survive information overload? And can it survive a president who knows how to use the resulting chaos to dodge democratic accountability?
Authoritarian rulers have long understood that controlling and manipulating information are crucial to subverting democracy and getting away with breaking the rules. That’s why dictatorial governments such as China and Russia not only work overtime to control media and censor inconvenient facts but also use troll armies to spew out 24/7 torrents of disinformation. Despite Trump’s obvious envy of such methods, he’s stuck with American democracy, so he has innovated out of necessity. He can’t shut down the press or censor Democrats, but he can blind the American electorate with a steady smokescreen of bewildering stories pouring out of the White House.
From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, any one of those stories above would have captivated national attention for weeks, or more likely, months. But with Trump, even the most scandalous topic soon disappears into a never-ending flow of revelations. By the time the morning news shows end, it’s on to the next spectacle of dysfunction. We’re living in a chronic state of whiplash.
I spent yesterday in my cozy apartment with uninterrupted electricity, TV, and internet; but outside my refuge, the Boston area was hit by a massive storm. Some parts of Massachusetts had 90 mph wind gusts, and wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph will continue through the day today. Today’s noon high tide is still likely to be dangerous.
The Boston Globe has a collection of photos from the storm if you’re interested. One example:
Here’s a video from downtown Boston that I found on Twitter that will give you an idea of what the winds were like.
I hope all you Sky Dancers along the East Coast are safe and warm today!
In other news, Trump has decamped to Florida, and I hope he’ll be busy enough with golf to leave the rest of us alone for awhile. This golfing trip represents a “milestone” for him though.
President Donald Trump reached a presidential milestone at his Palm Beach County, Florida, golf club on Saturday: One hundred days in office at a golf club that bears his name.
Trump, once a critic of presidential golfing, has ignored his own advice and made a habit of visiting some of the many golf courses emblazoned in his moniker. The habit is part of the broader trend of the President and first lady making frequent trips to properties owned and operated by the Trump Organization.
According to CNN’s count, Trump has exclusively visited four golf clubs he owns during his presidency: Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida; Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida; Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia; and Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump has spent 36 days at his Florida club and 40 days at his New Jersey course and made the short trip from the White House to his Virginia club 23 times. He golfed once at his Jupiter course with professional golfers Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Brad Faxon.
In total, Trump has spent nearly 25% of his days in office at one of his golf clubs. It is impossible to know whether Trump golfs every time he visits one of his golf clubs because White House aides rarely confirm that he is golfing, and Trump has, at times, visited his golf clubs to eat a meal or meet with people.
Melania went to Florida with Trump, and here’s how he treated her while he rushed to get out of the wind and onto Air Force One.
Imagine if Obama had done that to Michelle? But it’s nothing new for our asshole in chief.
One reason Trump may have been so “unglued” lately (besides the Russia investigation) is that he’s apparently on a diet. Bloomberg: Trump Swaps His Beloved Burgers for Salads and Soups in New Diet.
The president whose trademark campaign-trail dinner consisted of two McDonald’s Big Macs, two Filet-o-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate milkshake is cutting back on doctor’s orders to drop a few pounds, according to three people familiar with the matter. Less red meat, more fish.
One person said it’s been two weeks since he saw the president eat a hamburger.
Trump so far has embraced the new regimen, giving aides the impression he feels he is thriving on his new diet, they said.
Still, he is allowing himself indulgences. He ate bacon at breakfast one day this week.
Something very newsworthy has been happening in West Virginia, but national news outlets are only just beginning to cover it.
The New York Times: ‘All-In or Nothing’: How West Virginia’s Teacher Strike Was Months in the Making.
GILBERT, W. Va — Home from a long day teaching English last month at Mingo Central High School, Robin Ellis told her husband the latest talk among the teachers. They were tired of low pay and costly health benefits — and they were mulling a “rolling strike,” in which teachers in a few counties would walk out each day.
“You don’t want to do that,” Donnie Ellis, her husband, said. As a veteran of strip mines and the intense labor conflicts that often came with them, he knew what made some strikes succeed and others crumble.
“It’s got to be all-in or nothing,” he said.
It has definitely been all-in in West Virginia. For seven days now, teachers have refused to work in all 55 counties, shutting down every school in the state.
Every school day since last Thursday, thousands of red- and black-clad teachers, bus drivers and cooks have descended on Charleston to fill the halls of the State Capitol, chanting and singing defiantly in one of the few statewide teachers’ strikes in American history.
On Friday, as thousands crowded into the Capitol, all of the energy was directed at the State Senate, which has yet to take up a bill that would grant teachers a 5 percent pay raise — despite support for the measure by the governor, the Republican-controlled House and the state’s superintendents.
Click on the NYT link to read the rest.
More from the AP via The Chicago Tribune: Statewide West Virginia teacher strike enters day 7 without classes; state Senate nixes vote.
The West Virginia teachers’ strike rolled into its second weekend with the state Senate planning to meet Saturday after declining to take a vote on whether the teachers will get the 5 percent pay raise negotiated by Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders.
Senate Republicans have repeatedly emphasized spending restraint while saying the teachers and West Virginia’s other public workers are all underpaid.
Teachers are protesting pay that’s among the lowest in the nation, rising health care costs and a previously approved 2 percent raise for next year after four years without any increase.
“We’re still not close to resolving this critical issue,” said Sen. Roman Prezioso, the Democratic minority leader, requesting the vote Friday. “Let’s send the teachers and superintendents that I’ve seen here from all the different counties, send them home this weekend for a cooling off period. Let’s start school Monday and say this Senate does support education in West Virginia.”
Read the rest at the link.
Here’s another local story that is getting more attention–this is for you, JJ. The Louisville Courier-Journal: Kentucky’s ‘child bride’ bill stalls as groups fight to let 13-year-olds wed.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill to make 18 the legal age for marriage in Kentucky has stalled in a Senate committee amid concerns about the rights of parents to allow children to wed at a younger age, according to several lawmakers.
Known as the “child bride” bill, Senate Bill 48 was pulled off the agenda just hours before a scheduled vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the second time in two weeks.
“SO disappointed! My SB 48 (outlaw child marriage) won’t be called for a vote,” sponsor Julie Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican, said in a Tweet early Thursday. “It is disgusting that lobbying organizations would embrace kids marrying adults. We see evidence of parents who are addicted, abusive, neglectful pushing their children into predatory arms. Appalling.”
Eileen Recktenwald, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, was more outspoken.
“This is legalized rape of children,” she said. “We cannot allow that to continue in Kentucky, and I cannot believe we are even debating this is the year 2018 in the United States.”
The bill’s supporters have said underage marriages most often involve a teenage girl marrying an older man and may have involved sexual exploitation of the girl.
Guess who’s getting credit for killing the bill? If you guessed right wing “Christians,” you’re right. Patheos:
According to reports, a bill to outlaw child marriage in Kentucky has been indefinitely delayed after opposition from the conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky, a powerful lobbying group backed by conservative Christians in the state.
The Courier-Journal reports Senate Bill 48, Known as the “child bride” bill, has been stalled in committee after the conservative Christian group expressed “concerns about the rights of parents to allow children to wed at a younger age.”
Raw Story explains the legislation:
The modest bill would not totally ban child marriages, but would require a judge to review records to make sure that the child was not the victim of abuse, that there are not domestic violence incident involving either party and that the adult is not a registered sex-offender. The bill would require that the judge deny the right to marry if there was a pregnancy that resulted from the adult spouse molesting the child.
However, this “modest bill” protecting children from being forced into marriage by their parents, is perceived as a threat by conservative Christian lawmakers in Kentucky.
These “Christians” claim the bill would interfere with “parental rights.” The rights of young girls are of course irrelevant.
I have more stories to share; I’ll give them to you links only.
The Week: Hope Hicks apparently kept a White House diary. (I imagine Bob Mueller is already working on the subpoena!)
Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “She’s in Immense Personal Jeopardy”: Even for Hope Hicks the White House Got Too Hot.
Jessica Valenti at The Guardian: With Hope Hicks’ exit, we can’t let Trump’s female allies off the hook.
The Washington Post: Trump pushes Republicans to oppose crucial New York-New Jersey tunnel project.
Associated Press: Roy Moore pleads for money, saying resources ‘depleted.’
So . . . What’s on your mind? What stories are you following today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
You have to wonder what fresh hell we’ll wake up to each morning. We continue to find out how deeply the men in this administration hate women and how deeply the women that side with them must hate themselves. Sarah Sisterwife may still be in good stead, but Hope Hicks appears to be taking heat for dating not one but two serial wife beaters. What did the men in charge know about these duds and when did they know it?
A day after White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter resigned amid allegations he physically abused his ex-wives, the Trump administration is still struggling to contain the fallout. The question of who knew what, and when, is being hotly debated in the West Wing. Chief of Staff John Kelly, whose relationship with Trump has been strained in recent weeks, is taking the lion’s share of the blame, as I reported yesterday. On Wednesday night, Donald Trump vented to advisers that Kelly had not fully briefed him on Porter’s issues with women until recently, two sources told me. Trump was also not aware of the severity of the alleged abuse until yesterday, when Ivanka walked into the Oval Office and showed her father a photo published in the Daily Mail of Porter’s ex-wife with a black eye. “He was fucking pissed,” said one Republican briefed on the conversation. According to a source, Ivanka and Jared Kushner have been discussing possible chief-of-staff replacements. The problem is there’s not an obvious candidate waiting in the wings.
West Wing staffers continue to wonder why Kelly would keep the Porter allegations from the president, and why he defended Porter so aggressively when presented with allegations by the Mail. Porter’s history with women had been known to Kelly for months, a source familiar with the matter said. (Porter has been working with a temporary security clearance because the allegations surfaced in an F.B.I. background interview.) According to a source, Kelly at first pushed back when White House officials wanted him to issue a second statement walking back his initial strong defense of Porter. Kelly ultimately wrote that he was “shocked by the new allegations.”
The crisis also raises questions about Hope Hicks’s decision-making, and whether her romantic relationship with Porter clouded her judgment. According to a source, Hicks did not get a sign off from Trump for the White House’s initial statement defending Porter, in which Kelly was quoted calling Porter a “man of true integrity.” She drafted the statement with her close friend, Kushner’s White House spokesman Josh Raffel, whom she’s known since their days working for Manhattan P.R. strategist Matthew Hiltzik. This morning, Hicks continued to defend Porter in private, a source said, telling people she thinks the allegations aren’t true. In recent weeks, Trump has been angry at Hicks for her role in approving interviews with Michael Wolff, a Republican close to the White House told me. (The White House did not respond to requests for comment.)
Kelly is an appalling racist and misogynist who continually outs himself in public. But, why on earth would Hicks defend Porter?
President Donald Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with Hope Hicks, his communications director and one of his closest confidantes, amid the fallout from the Rob Porter scandal, people familiar with the matter say.Meanwhile, the President has told associates he’s dismayed at how the allegations involving his former staff secretary accused of domestic abuse were handled, but he isn’t certain how to solve the mushrooming controversy, a person familiar with the conversations tells CNN.Trump was not consulted when Hicks and several other aides drafted a White House statement defending Porter, and he is under the impression that Hicks has let her romantic relationship with Porter cloud her judgment, a source familiar said.In the aftermath, Trump has told associates he feels that Hicks put her own priorities ahead of his. However, there is little to indicate that Hicks’ standing is in jeopardy.Speaking during the White House briefing on Thursday, spokesman Raj Shah said Hicks had recused herself from some matters related to the Porter fallout. Porter was in the building for a short period to clean out his desk, Shah said.Hicks continued to privately defend Porter to her White House colleagues Thursday, a source familiar said.
The Rob Porter crisis has become a John Kelly crisis, and it has now totally engulfed the West Wing. White House staff — especially Porter’s close friendship circle —are shell-shocked by the allegations of domestic abuse by the departing aide. President Trump is enraged about the situation, though he still feels that it hasn’t touched him.
The bottom line: Trump’s affection for his chief of staff is gone, and Kelly has lost the goodwill of much of his staff. The president is mulling potential replacements, though aides doubt he has it in him to actually fire the retired general.
Where it stands: Kelly still has not adequately answered when he became aware of the horrific allegations against Porter. Nor have the other senior officials who should have had visibility over this: White House counsel Don McGahn and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin.
The official White House line — that Kelly only became “fully aware” of the domestic assault allegations when the Daily Mail story broke — doesn’t pass the smell test.
- Both of Porter’s ex-wives told the FBI about their claims.
- There was a police report.
- There was a restraining order.
- There are photos.
- All of this was part of his background checks which never passed muster.
The big picture: In any major corporation in America, Porter would have been escorted out the door the minute senior officials learned of these allegations. Everyone is entitled to their day in court, but in no normal corporation or White House could somebody continue serve under these conditions. And there is no organization in America more important than the White House.
Yes, but: It’s probably not enough to get Kelly fired — because unlike other Trump aides, Kelly never wanted the job in the first place and would never fight to save it. And as a source close to the president told me, “That changes Trump’s calculus.”
What we’re hearing: It’s not surprising that Trump would make noises about getting rid of Kelly. But sources close to the president don’t believe he has it in him to actually pull the trigger.
- Yes, Kelly frustrates Trump. Yes, Trump complains about him. Yes, the two have never developed the personal chemistry — full of off-color jokes and nicknames like Hopey (Hope Hicks) and Reincey (Reince Priebus) — that Trump has formed with some of his other advisers.
- And yes, there’s not a ton of personal affection for Kelly across the White House staff.
- But everyone respects the service of a man Trump calls “a tough cookie.” And Kelly’s four star status inoculates him from the normal reaches of Trump’s wrath.
“Trump is not going to fire him,” the source close to the president said. “And does Trump have the stomach to do what he normally does when he’s fed up with them? He usually makes their lives miserable, publicly humiliates them. But now he’s up against somebody who doesn’t care and would happily leave.”
White House counsel Don McGahn knew a year ago that Rob Porter’s two former wives were preparing to testify to the FBI that he had abused them. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly knew about the domestic abuse allegations as early as November 2017. Other powerful administration figures may have been aware earlier than that.
No one took action.
Porter resigned this week as the allegations become public, including a photo of one of his wives with a black eye. But the White House defended him again and again, and President Trump told reporters today that Porter has claimed to be innocent and “will have a great career ahead of him.”
The White House’s inaction — and recent defense of Porter — bring to light a major conflict within the conservative movement in the age of Trump. While House Speaker Paul Ryan touts his support for bipartisan legislation to end harassment and misconduct committed by members of Congress, and other Republicans make changes within their own offices, the Trump White House is not even paying lip service to reform.
Instead, they’ve housed Porter, accused of spousal abuse, and Steve Bannon, also accused of spousal abuse (whom Trump nicknamed “Bam Bam” because of it), and backed an Alabama Senate candidate accused of molesting or assaulting minors.
White House chief of staff John Kelly was told several weeks ago that the FBI would recommend denying full security clearances to multiple White House aides who had been working in the West Wing on interim security clearances.
Those aides, according to a senior administration official, included former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who left the White House on Thursday after reports that he physically and verbally abused his two ex-wives.
The White House chief-of-staff told confidants in recent weeks that he had decided to fire anyone who had been denied a clearance — but had yet to act on that plan before the Porter allegations were first reported this week.
Kelly’s inaction has produced what may be the deepest crisis of his seven months on the job, unleashing a cascade of questions about whether Trump – who was accused by multiple women during the 2016 campaign of sexual impropriety – and his closest advisers take violence against women seriously at a time when the #MeToo movement has called other politicians, media moguls and entertainment icons to account.
The revelations about Porter included photographs of his first wife with a black eye she said he gave her on a trip to Italy. Kelly initially defended Porter, who has been romantically involved with White House communications director Hope Hicks, before expressing shock over the allegations on Thursday.
Those close to Kelly say they’re puzzled about why the former Marine general, whose singular focus since joining the West Wing in July has been to eliminate irregularities and chaos, failed to follow through on his determination to push out aides denied a permanent clearance.
Still, a lot of gossip is still circling Hope Hicks too. What was she thinking?
President Trump‘s communications director Hope Hicks has now been romantically linked to not one but two ousted Trump aides who have been accused of violence against women.
The newspaper published photos of Hicks and Porter recently enjoying dinner and drinks with Ivanka Trump and others at Rosa Mexicano in Washington, D.C., before appearing to return to Hicks’ apartment alone together.
The Daily Mail said Hicks and Porter did not sit next to each other at the restaurant but that an eyewitness spotted them kissing and cuddling in the back of a taxi on their way home.
According to The Daily Mail, speculation that the two were romantically involved started last month, after Hicks and Porter were seen at a Washington, D.C., area church service on Jan. 7. Though Hicks is Roman Catholic and Porter is Mormon, they were reportedly seen praying together.
This is what happens when you let a man of low values and character with absolutely no skill set or emotional maturity surround himself with people that he doesn’t feel threatened by. I’m really tired of the chaos, the bigotry, and the daily outrage.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
and for something a bit more uplifting …
Today’s Google doodle honors pioneering impressionist artist Paula Modersohn-Becker. I had never heard of her, so I decided to look at her work. I’m using some of her paintings to illustrate this post. Time Magazine has some background on her life and art.
The first woman to paint a naked self-portrait didn’t care much for the traditional expectations or institutions that constrained most European women at the turn of the 20th century. Paula Modersohn-Becker’s parents wanted her to become a teacher, and told her to abandon her “egotism” in order to carry out her wifely duties; instead, she became one of the era’s most prolific artists, and helped give rise to the modernist movement alongside Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse….
At the age of 18, she defied her parents to join an artist colony in Worpswede, in northern Germany. There, she met her future husband, the older, respected artist Otto Modersohn.
Eager to learn more about modern art, Modersohn-Becker soon after moved to Paris, and encouraged Modersohn to join her. The two got engaged, at which point Modersohn-Becker ‘s family intervened and sent her to a cooking school in preparation for her coming marriage.
But she refused to put aside her ambitions and paint brushes, and boldly declared she “was going to become somebody“. Her works often featured regular women, frequently painted nude, as they slept, breastfed and gardened.
In 1906 alone, the prolific artist painted 80 pictures. She died later the following year of an embolism, 18 days after giving birth to her daughter at the age of 31.
She “declared she ‘was going to become somebody.” I just love that! Reading about this courageous woman took me out of the insanity of America’s present moment for a little while, and I’m grateful for that brief respite.
Today’s news is as crazy as ever. I wrote in a comment on JJ’s post that maybe Trump’s “success” in business was partially a result of the chaos he constantly creates. He frequently had to be bailed out of his massive mistakes–first by his father and then by various banks and investors. He refused to pay contractors and employees until they simply gave up in disgust.
Many of the people who have tried to deal with Trump have ended up simply throwing up their hands. We see that happening in the White House and even in the media. The man is a walking, talking disaster area. Everything he touches turns to shit and everywhere he goes he leaves terrible damage in his wake. I wonder if American democracy will survive.
Trump also seems to attract other people with dark and ugly personalities. Take White House chief of staff John Kelly, for example. When he was first appointed to his current position, the media celebrated Kelly as the “adult in the room” who would tame Trump’s wild and dangerous authoritarian tendencies. Now we know Kelly and Trump are two peas in a pod. The only difference is that Kelly had a slightly more dignified facade. But that’s gone now; Kelly has shown us who he is: a bigoted, foul-mouthed, unapologetic authoritarian, just like Trump.
Gail Collins at The New York Times: Trump’s Worst Watcher.
Do you remember back when everybody thought John Kelly was going to calm down the Trump White House?
Stop laughing. Although it has been another wow of a week, hasn’t it? We had one top administration official, Rob Porter, resigning over claims of domestic abuse regarding two ex-wives. Kelly defended Porter as “a friend, a confidant and a trusted professional” shortly before a picture popped up of one former Mrs. Porter sporting a black eye.
This was a little bit after Kelly himself made headlines for suggesting that some young immigrants couldn’t qualify for federal help because they were just “too lazy to get off their asses” and file some paperwork. Meanwhile the president, apparently unsupervised, was calling for a government shutdown and lobbying enthusiastically for an expensive new military parade. Because he saw one in Paris and thought it was cool.
A good chief of staff advises the president against doing things that will make the administration look stupid or crazy. So, are we all in agreement that Kelly, retired general turned Trump chief of staff, appears to be … a failure? And sort of a jerk in the bargain?
The world began to notice that Kelly was perhaps not as cool, calm and collected as we’d bargained for when he was coordinating a condolence call by the president to Myeshia Johnson, whose husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, was killed while serving on a strange mission in Niger.
It did not go well. Ms. Johnson said the president seemed to forget her husband’s name. His idea of comfort, she said, was to tell her La David knew “what he was signing up for.” Trump naturally denied everything. Representative Frederica Wilson, a family friend, made the whole disaster public. Kelly then waded in with an emotional speech in which he assailed Wilson for taking credit for getting funding for a Florida building named after two slain F.B.I. agents. Its overall weirdness was matched only by its total inaccuracy.
The next step, in theory, would be an apologetic call from Kelly to the congresswoman. Or assigning someone to reach out to La David Johnson’s widow and try to smooth the whole awful situation over. Never happened.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: Beyond Disbelief: John Kelly’s Defense of Rob Porter Roils The West Wing.
For weeks, Donald Trump has been souring on his Chief of Staff John Kelly because of his controlling ways and rising public profile. And now Kelly is in the midst of a bonafide crisis, one that exacerbates the president’s own #MeToo problems. On Tuesday, Kelly strongly defended White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter against disturbing allegations, first published in the Daily Mail, that he abused his ex-wives. Kelly’s decision to back Porter has left many people inside the White House angry, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. On Wednesday afternoon, Porter resigned. Axios reported Kelly wanted Porter to “stay and fight.”
Yesterday, Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Mail that Porter called her a “fucking bitch” on their honeymoon, and once pulled her naked out of the shower. In response, Kelly put out a statement calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honor” and a “trusted professional.” But shortly after Kelly rallied behind his colleague, Porter’s first wife came forward with additional harrowing allegations. Colbie Holderness, who married Porter in 2009, told the Daily Mail that Porter punched her in the face and choked her, among other alleged abuses. The article included a photo of her with a black eye. “It was not hard enough for me to pass out, but it was scary, humiliating, and dehumanizing,” she said. Porter told the Daily Mail that the allegations were “slanderous and simply false.”
Kelly’s decision to go to bat for Porter deeply frustrated White House staffers, sources told me. He was supposed to be the West Wing’s resident grown-up, but staffers are increasingly questioning Kelly’s judgment, four Republicans close to the White House told me. “It’s beyond disbelief. Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him,” one former West Wing official said. Another Republican said: “How many times has Kelly put out a statement defending Trump?”
Sources said Kelly was so quick to defend Porter because the two have grown very close since Trump appointed Kelly chief of staff last summer. Porter, a Rhodes scholar, has helped Kelly instill discipline in the West Wing. Kelly has told people that Porter has a “calming effect” on White House operations. For instance, it’s Porter who screens all the information that gets to Trump’s desk. Porter also helped Kelly conduct a West Wing organizational study that provided Kelly with a cudgel to sideline Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, two former West Wing officials told me. The officials also said Kelly supported Porter even after the F.B.I. delayed granting Porter’s security clearance because they uncovered his alleged history of spousal abuse.
Kelly needs to go. Now. Late last night, he finally claimed (probably after urging from WH staff members who still have consciences) that he was “shocked” by the allegations of abuse that he previously didn’t give a shit about.
There’s plenty of news on the Russia investigation.
Last night NBC News published new details on Russia’s hacking of state voting systems: Russians penetrated U.S. voter systems, top U.S. official says.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, said she couldn’t talk about classified information publicly, but in 2016, “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”
Jeh Johnson, who was DHS secretary during the Russian intrusions, said, “2016 was a wake-up call and now it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again.”
“We were able to determine that the scanning and probing of voter registration databases was coming from the Russian government.”
There is no evidence that any of the registration rolls were altered in any fashion, according to U.S. officials.
Read more details at the link above.
Meduza (“The Real Russia, Today”): An escort girl may be the latest ‘Russia Gate’ link.
Alexey Navalny has published new corruption allegations against Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko and oligarch Oleg Deripaska, alleging that the two met aboard Deripaska’s yacht in August 2016 off the coast of Norway, possibly to discuss the oligarch’s relationship with Paul Manafort and his role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Navalny says he learned about the meeting thanks to an escort who posted photos from the excursion on Instagram. Navalny says the trip amounts to a bribe, insofar as Deripaska apparently flew Prikhodko in on his private jet and then provided him with the services of an “escort girl.”
Navalny also alleges that Prikhodko owns a home valued at 300 million rubles ($5.2 million) in a luxurious area outside Moscow, as well as two apartments in the city worth almost 500 million rubles ($8.7 million) — real estate that the oppositionist says Prikhodko could only afford because of bribes.
We’ll have wait and see if this story gets filled out in U.S. or British media.
Former president George W. Bush appeared to take aim at President Trump on Thursday when he said at an economic summit that there was “pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled” in the 2016 U.S. election.
Bush did not directly name Trump during his talk in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. He appeared there as part of a conference by the Milken Institute, a think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Whether (Russia) affected the outcome is another question,” Bush said. “It’s problematic that a foreign nation is involved in our election system. Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.”
The Washington Post: Justice Dept. official who helped oversee Clinton, Russia probes steps down.
David Laufman, an experienced federal prosecutor who in 2014 became chief of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, said farewell to colleagues Wednesday. He cited personal reasons.
His departure from the high-pressure job comes as President Trump and his Republican allies have stepped up attacks on the Justice Department, the FBI and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for their handling of the Russia probe.
“It’s tough to leave a mission this compelling and an institution as exceptional as the Department of Justice,” said Laufman, 59. “But I know that prosecutors and agents will continue to bring to their work precisely what the American people should expect: a fierce and relentless commitment to protect the national security of the United States.”
“David’s departure is a great loss for the department,’’ said Mary McCord, a former acting head of the National Security Division who resigned in May. “He has the integrity and attention to detail that is critical to investigating and prosecuting the types of sensitive matters handled by the department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.”
I hadn’t heard of Laufman before, but the story says he was a target of right wing attacks.
Laufman became a target of the far-right blogosphere, with conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich accusing him last year of being the source of “national security leaks.” Cernovich’s claim, which Laufman’s colleagues have called baseless, surfaced after media reports detailed then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s discussion of U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The online attacks persisted for months. After Comey’s firing in May, Cernovich posted a piece titled “Will DOJ leaker David Laufman be next to leave after #Comey?”
Critics noted that Laufman had donated to Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, referring to him as a “holdover.” But he is a career attorney who has served as a political appointee in Republican administrations as well, notably as chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003.
One more interesting read is this long piece at Politico Magazine by Luke Harding: Why Carter Page Was Worth Watching. There’s plenty of evidence that the former Trump campaign adviser, for all his quirks, was on suspiciously good terms with Russia.
The article is an excerpt from Harding’s book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.
What stories are you following today?