Saturday, February 11, 2017

Meanwhile, these things happened this week

Whether it's Trump's strategy to keep us from looking too deeply into any of his more serious violations of law and presidential tradition  (what power does Russia hold over him? for example) -- or whether it's simply that a chaotic mind produces chaos, the fact is that every day of the Trump presidency so far has produced more news than I can keep up with, much less summarize and analyze.  Just to sum up this week, here's some of what happened:

1.  The Appeals Court handed Trump a major defeat in rejecting his request to lift the stay on his immigration ban.   He called it a "political" decision, as usual maligning the judges.

2.  Trump's National Security Adviser, Gen. Flynn is in hot water, having been caught lying, when he earlier denied that he had had any discussion about sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador during the transition.   Now he says, he doesn't remember, but it could have come up.  The difference is that they have his conversations on tape, and nine different security officials have been leaking information talking with investigative journalists about them.

Evidence reportedly shows that Flynn clearly suggested that Russia not retaliate, because things will be different when Trump is president.  If it is proved that he did, that was a violation of the Logan Act and therefore illegal, because at the time he was an ordinary citizen negotiating with a foreign government to undermine the authority of the U.S. government.  Further evidence shows that Flynn's contacts with the Russian government actually began before the election, suggesting collusion with the Russian efforts to influence our election.

The best evidence that Flynn did convey this:   Putin did not respond to the sanctions in his usual tit for tat manner.  That is unheard of for this cold-bloodedformer KGB officer.  He did nothing but express sadness that the children of his expelled diplomats would have to be traveling home during the Christmas holidays.   He even went as far as inviting the children of American diplomats in Moscow to come to the Kremlin for their Christmas celebration.  Why would Putin respond so uncharacteristically unless he had reason to believe it was to his advantage

3.  With a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate as the Education Secretary.  And by a party-line vote, Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General.

4.  Kellyanne Conway also clearly broke the law when, in her appearance on Fox News, she was asked about Nordstrom Department Store's announcement that they will no longer carry the Ivanka Trump brand items because of declining sales.   Kellyanne turned it into a commercial -- even saying "I'm going to give a little commercial.  Go buy Ivanka's stuff.  It's a wonderful line.  I own some of it."  And telling the television audience that "you can get it online."    That is clearly illegal for a government official to advocate for a particular product.  But look at the example the president himself sets.   

5.  The president then took it upon himself to send out a tweet trashing Nordstrom, saying that they were treating his daughter unfairly.   If that's not illegal, it should be.   But it's worse than that, as pointed out by Rachel Maddow.   It shows that Trump is not living up to his assurance that he will keep his business interests and being president separate.  In fact, it shows that even his staff seem to think that it's part of their job to bolster the business interests of the family.

6.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight Committee -- yes, the one who has been such a scourge at investigating the Obama administration -- said of Conway's comment that it was "wrong . . . wrong . . . wrong."   And he cosigned a request to the Office of Government Ethics for an ethics investigation.

7.  The same Rep. Chaffetz held a town hall meeting in his home district in Utah.  He was booed as he came onstage and faced chants of "Do Your Job!"   This was apparently not about the Conway thing (where he did do his job);   but, from the questioning, they were upset that he wasn't investigating Trump and his many violations.

8.  New Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch created quite a stir by telling Democratic senators, in his confirmation hearings, that he found the attacks on the judiciary "disheartening and demoralizing."   It was clear to the senators that he was referring directly to Trump's comments about the Appeals Court judges, because that's what they were asking him to respond to.  But he later tried to say that it was not meant as criticism of the president;  he was speaking in general about lack of respect for the judiciary.   Well, of course he would have to say that, wouldn't he?   But so what if he did mean it generally?   The president did it, so it also includes him, doesn't it?

9.  Oh, yes.   I almost forgot;  so much has happened in the three days since then.   The senate rebuked Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her lack of comity in speaking against the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.   The Republicans did not seem to understand the difference in ordinary debate among senators and the debate over whether to confirm one of their number as the top legal officer in the nation.

I'm all for comity (a fancy word for playing nice);  but, when it comes to choosing the one who will make decisions about racial matters and voting rights, criminal justice reform and immigration bans -- we should not just sip our mint juleps and wave our fans on the front veranda of the mansion, while rubber-stamping one of our own cherished.   Cherished by those who want to deny rights to a sizable portion of our citizens, that is.  To those, he was ol' massa personified, and Coretta Scott King was speaking for them in her letter that Sen. Warren was reading on the senate floor, when she was so rudely interrupted and told to sit down.

10.  Trump is still lying about voter fraud in NH, telling a roomful of senators that thousands of people came over the border and voted illegally.  As usual, he offers no evidence for the claim.  He also reportedly said that if Sen. Kelly Ayote had not spoken against him, they would both have won in New Hampshire.   Ayote was defeated for reelection by former governor Maggie Hassan.

What troubles me most about this, and some of his other lies, is that I think he actually believes some of them.  And you have to question a president who cannot tell the difference between verifiable facts and the loony stuff that circulates on the right-wing internet sites.  Or, equally bad:   He has the kind of thinking disorder that assumes "if he thinks it, it must be true."

So much for a busy third week of the Trump presidency.   Only 8,435 days to go.   At least, we're not at war yet.  Maybe that's because he saves his insults for our allies.   He praises Putin and has mostly remained silent about Kim Jung Un and the Supreme Leader of Iran.


PS:   Tomorrow, come back for some lighter, generally good news.

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