Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

PA-18 Was Close

I think the thing to keep in mind is, this district went big for Trump in 2016 and was gerrymandered to be a safe GOP seat, and Saccone wasn't really a particularly bad candidate (whatever Trump might say despite his rally for him).  But something changed. Does this reflect on the 2018 midterms?

I want to say "yes".

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Huh. Wonder how much this had to do with Tillerson's response to the likely Russian assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal in the UK? (Or was he already fired by then?)

Anyway, while he was responsible for hollowing out the State Department and this shouldn't feel like a gigantic surprise, it still seems...sudden.

UPDATE: Mike Pompeo, who is moving from CIA to State, met with sanctioned Russian spies. Gina Haspel, who Trump is putting forward for CIA Director, is connected to torture. In other personnel news, Trump's personal assistant John McEntee was kicked out of the White House for "unspecified" security reasons, and will be joining Trump's presidential re-election campaign, where, apparently, unspecified security issues are less of a big deal.

UPDATE 2: Per Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, Tillerson only found out about his firing by Tweet today, contradicting the White House narrative that the decision was made Friday. In a related story, Steve Goldstein is also fired.

They Didn't Find What They Weren't Looking For

Frankly, if this was just going to keep being a farce, with Rep. Nunes coming up with trumpery distractions and members like Rep. Conaway not knowing basic things, with folks either refusing to turn up for questioning or just failing to answer questions (Bannon, Hicks, Lewandowski), well? It might as well be ended, then.

But I promise you, if somehow Hillary Clinton was president right now, they'd still have months worth of material on her damn emails.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

This TrumpWorld Grab-Bag is a Dumpster Fire

In what surely feels like a sign of the times, Merriam-Webster has added the term "dumpster fire" to the dictionary, and that is exactly what TrumpWorld feels like: to wit, "an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence". Except TrumpWorld isn't any singular calamitous or mismanaged occurrence--it is entire mixed lots of rubbish burning together with different layers of grease or spent rubber or whatever have you undergoing their own unique kinds of combustion according to their chemistry.

One might think this has something to do with the man in charge. I don't know if Trump himself is deep, but his superficiality seems to have layers. He is keen to tell people that his White House isn't in chaos, but admits he likes conflict. He talks about the great energy he's surrounded with, but the White House itself could be powered with electricity generated by staff evacuating through a revolving door. Trump no sooner made the statement that people wanted to work at the White House than it was announced that his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, was leaving over a disagreement on trade policy.  (It apparently makes no difference that Trump plans to enact the tariff scheme in "a loving way".  "I'm going to tariff you so good. Tariff a piece of that ass." Etc.)

But who's to say Trump even is in charge? In an essential read on Christopher Steele and the Trump/Russia connection by Jane Mayer, it's asserted that Putin vetoed Mitt Romney for Secretary of State in favor of Friend of Russia Rex Tillerson. (I myself mostly assumed that Trump let on that the spot was available to Mitt just for the sheer joy of seeing a man grovel.)

It's not fully implausible--it seems like former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was working out "foreign policy" (or bribery and kidnapping) on his own ambit during his short term under foreign influence, and it's quite possible that White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner backed a blockade against Qatar in retaliation for a failure to invest in his family's business.  The operations of this White House are such that one would be suspicious if anyone did anything without some appearance of ulterior motives. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Trump Paradox

Every little bit of this sounds as guilty as hell. An investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election didn't necessarily need to have anything to do with Donald Trump to be worthy of investigation, and since nothing really did leak to discredit Trump during the campaign, he sounds a bit pouty over the results of the election that he won.

Also, given that we know full well that his campaign was outreached by Russians claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton (via George Papadopoulos and Don Jr.), it's more troubling that the Trump campaign knew it was happening and never mentioned it. Which means they were benefitting from Russian rigging and did not care.

The paradox here is that investigating the Russian meddling was not nothing, and telling Putin to stop meddling was not nothing. That Trump's own administration is doing nothing, however, and that Trump is still so touchy about the Mueller investigation that is happening? Is proof of how very disingenuous this Twitter poutrage really is.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

We All Tell Little White Lies

I'm sure any White House Communications Director might say out loud where the people can hear that telling "white lies" is part of her job, while clamming up about most everything else.

When I hear people aren't talking to Congress, I tend to think they will be more forthcoming with Mueller, now.

UPDATE: Aaaannd Hope Hicks has resigned from her position at the White House, stating that she would like to pursue opportunities outside of the White House. There seems to be some question about whether she really had been thinking about resigning for some times (if not months, then, at least, weeks) or whether this resignation was prompted by her performance at the hearing in dropping the confession that occasionally, she had to lie. I feel like it would be very strange if she did want to stay in an increasingly hostile and stressful environment and probably did have leaving planned. I also wouldn't think it had nothing whatsoever to do with the Russia investigation--but not the House intelligence probe part, because that's bollocks and no one faces any repercussions, and I don't think anyone would necessarily be shocked about an admission of just a wee bit of lying by this particular White House's standards. Other administrations--yes. This one, no.

What made me pretty sure she already had her mental desk cleared was the pictures in which she has what I guess I'd call a "Mona Lisa smile". And I am somewhat more persuaded that the conversation with the Mueller probe is coming, especially because of her part in crafting the statement to cover up Don Jr's Russian contacts during the campaign, and her regular statements that she didn't know of any contacts between campaign personnel and Russia, which almost certainly has to least gray lies, wouldn't you think?

(Responsibly photo-crediting Leah Mills/Reuters for an absolutely stunning shot, silly book additions are me.)

This is Not your Father-in-Law's TrumpWorld Grab-Bag

As you might have surmised, this edition of the TrumpWorld Grab-Bag is going to feature pretty heavily on Jared Kushner, who just had his security clearance downgraded, which seems great, although there is a pretty big issue with his ever having had one in the first place. Leaving aside the obvious problem of nepotism, Kushner is crazily in debt, his family has shown a willingness to use his position to get mad unethical, and, as was revealed today, a pattern of financial insecurity and poor, na├»ve decision-making has made foreign countries decide he is a super great halfwit to work with.  This was kind of a no-brainer--Kushner should not have high security access because his position is really insecure.

It's also probably a no-brainer to suppose that this means he either can't do his presumed job (which is, last I checked, all the foreign policy things we're supposed to have a State Department for) or, Daddy Trump and Ivanka are going to let him crib from their notes. This is a situation of such abominable stupidity it could only be happening in the Trump White House.

But in the world of "Jared can't catch a break", he's also facing a Hatch Act violation for talking up President Trump's 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, while using his official White House title. Kushner, of course, brought Parscale on to the 2016 campaign and worked closely with him, so he has a good idea about the quality of his work-product from the digital end of the campaign, but even that is darn problematic. Parscale went from being pretty much no one in politics, to being a weird 2016 success story, but the funny thing is, he's tied to Cambridge Analytica, which is tied to Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn and, obviously, the Russia investigation.  Parscale has already had a chat with Congress, and is probably going to get another one with Robert Mueller and friends. (Don't sweat, pets, there's other hang-ups this cat likely has.)

Among the things that are kind of alarming about Parscale's "genius" strategy is that it counted on using social media as a voter suppression tactic for targeted demographics. And oh! Hey! Far out! Neat! That was exactly the game the Russia interference was playing at, the Mueller has already indicted folks for. But really, who knows just how Russian assets intersected with the Trump campaign--yet? 

You know who might or might not know? Roger Stone. Apparently, it turns out he was all up in the WikiLeaks DMs (even though he tried to front like he wasn't and WikiLeaks tried to front like he wasn't) getting told to please stop telling people he was in touch with WikiLeaks. These reads are a little funky. You know who's digital back and forth I might like to know about, though--Assange and Sean Hannity. I know. This might just be a fanfic "ship" I have in my head. Anyhow, Sean Hannity recently said something kind of funny--that he was actively involved in the Trump campaign, and he never heard of George Papadopoulos.  "Actively involved"? Wow. This was a journalistic integrity half-minute with Sean Hannity.

I can't assess whether Hannity ever crossed paths with George Papadopoulos, but Joseph Mifsud, the professor that dangled Hillary Clinton "dirt" obtained by Russia to him, is missing. Is he the victim of foul play, or just ducking child support? I can't even pretend I know for sure, but if he's alive, I'm sure he has stories.

But as it must, this TrumpWorld Grab-Bag has to circle back around to Trump himself. Jared Kushner wasn't the only person whose dodgy background interfered with performance of his job--four Commerce employees just got the boot for clearance issues. There's definitely still "vetting" issues. But the poor vetting might not even be as bad as the failure of this Administration to address the Russian election hacking to any real degree. NSA Chief, Admiral Mike Rogers advised that he had not been given any order about disrupting the ongoing Russian plot. That is not good, because we know that Russia will try to affect the 2018 midterms.  We've also recently found out that the election-related systems of seven states were breached by Russian hacking in 2016.

And the GOP-lead Congress doesn't seem arsed to do much about any of it, either. (If anything, they still want to make our election systems less secure.) But if Congress doesn't seem interested in things like seeing if Trump is financially compromised due to his foreign indebtedness (which is, rather like his son-in-law's a pretty big deal, whatever Rep. Conaway thinks), Robert Mueller is, as always, on that case.

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Very Big TrumpWorld Grab-Bag

On Friday, Rick Gates plead guilty to two criminal counts and his associate, Paul Manafort, was hit with a whole slew of new charges.  These new charges might not even be the final word on what Manafort is being charged with, because Gates is now cooperating with the Mueller investigation--and Gate knows everything (or damn near) the Manafort has been doing, and his deal rests on giving Mueller whatever assistance is relevant to his probe. The probe is pretty broad, and it sounds like Mueller is pretty well busted. And this means Manafort is pretty well busted too. 

There's bank fraud, there's tax fraud, there's money laundering, there's unregistered foreign lobbying, and while there isn't just as yet a clear connection to how this ties into the Russian election tampering probe, it clearly shows how seriously leveraged and therefore, vulnerable to being used by or as foreign agents they were. Especially Manafort, as Josh Marshall sketches out (you need TPM Prime for that one, I think--you should really get TPM Prime). Anyway, Paul Manafort was a guy so desperate for money that he went out of his way to work for the Trump campaign for free (as did a lot of folks, apparently)--but it's hard to imagine he got nothing of value out of the job. And he remained in contact with the campaign through the transition (via the VP candidate he "helped" choose--Mike Pence). (Gates, of course, remained with the Trump campaign right through the transition, himself.)

What kinds of thing would Manafort's position with the Trump campaign be good for? Well, maybe getting a spot in an eventual Trump cabinet for one of his creditors? Or helping "tweak" the Trump campaign's position on Ukraine? Who knows what checks Manafort's mouth might have written out of the Trump's eventual presidency account? (Which could only get paid if Trump's win could be ensured?)

But back to Gates--one of the things he is copping to, is making false statements to investigators in the probe. That's what tripped up Mike Flynn, too. It also tripped up damn handsome attorney Alex van der Zwaan. This guy, van der Zwaan, is fascinatingly connected to a Russian billionaire by marriage who is, like Trump's steadfast fixer, Michael Cohen, suing Buzzfeed over the Steele Dossier. That billionaire, German Khan, owns Alfa Group which includes Alfa Bank, which is an interesting side-story in all this that you probably have already heard about. 

But: what was Gates lying about? 

A meeting with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. That would be the congressman who Rep. Kevin McCarthy, maybe not entirely in jest, suggested worked for Putin. This seems a little less funny in context. I kind of feel like Rohrabacher's business damn near speaks for itself.  

Anyhow, you know who Donald Trump crowed about working for nothing (Nothing!) and was definitely deserving of all the top secret clearance despite his being seriously financially leveraged?  His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who helped bring Paul Manafort on to the campaign. There are apparently good reasons Kushner's clearance situation is problematic--and again, working for the White House even for free doesn't mean he can't take away anything of value

In completely other news, one of the 13 indicted Russians from the past week is linked to a Russian mercenary group that attacked US soldiers in Syria.  I'd say anything at all about that, but I'm mostly speechless, because the complications of all this Trump/Russia business are, in some ways, unspeakable. They just shouldn't be

Also--the Nunes memo was always partisan trash and the Democratic memo confirms that the investigation into all this, but especially Carter Page, was already underway because of course it was. The Steele Dossier is not the only iron anyone ever had in the ongoing Trump Russia dumpster fire.