So the question, as always with President Now What?, is which outrage to address first, and Week #114 of the Trump Era was no different. Might as well start with a capitalized and exclamation-pointed
for Trump’s first time use of his presidential veto power, which he exercised to veto Congress’s own veto of his fake national emergency, which was in reality an end run around Congress vetoing any funds for his horizontal Trump Tower on the Mexican border. Next up after Don Veto? Saudi Prince bin Salman, Defender of The Kingdom’s Honor!
When you got some rats
In your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call?
The Saudi Rapid Intervention Group!
This was another bizarre and disturbing element of Week #114, the revelation that Trump’s buddy, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, made a habit of surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens of the dissident persuasion since 2017, with the same squad of goons that murdered and dismembered Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi.
US Intelligence agencies gave his motley collection of torturers, kidnappers and assassins the official designation “The Saudi Rapid Intervention Group,” since they respond internationally (thus by definition illegally) to discouraging words written or spoken about Saudi Arabia in general, and the Crown Prince in particular, a rather extreme approach to public relations. Hard to say if Trump simply refuses to admit he was wrong about the man or if he is envious and wishes he had a hit squad of his own at his beck and call to despatch his most dangerous enemies. Beware Alec Baldwin! Watch your back, Nancy Pelosi!
Indeed, Trump did issue a veiled threat of armed violence against American citizens by America’s military and police forces, as well as decrepit old bikers and those fat slob drunken militias stumbling around the woods in camouflage gear waving Gadsden Flags, “if things keep going the way they’re going.” A laughable notion, but scary laughable: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” Trump told the Völkischer Beobachter, er… that is to say… Breitbart News.
For those among us saying Trump is having only a negative impact overseas… well, you were right. Trump Week #114 actually began overseas with a scary scenario eerily similar to the one Trump implied, a White Supremacist killing his fellow citizens who are “different,” which was as real as real gets. On Friday in New Zealand, a self-proclaimed White Nationalist shot and killed 50 people in two New Zealand Mosques, streaming the shootings live on Facebook. The world reacted in unison, expressing its outrage at this racist act of terror. Well, almost in unison.
Not so fast, demurred Donald J. Trump, he of the Solomonesque “there are nice people on both sides,” who declined to brand this act of racist terror for what it was. He was protesting so much he forgot the Thoughts & Prayers for the victims part, as if this catastrophic mass killing on the opposite side of the planet was somehow (!) unfair to him and was some kind of accusation against him personally (Yes. Yes it was, Mr. President, you at least got that part right.), and that the hateful manifesto released by the killer that mentions Trump by name, as well as his self-proclaimed White Supremacism were no reason for jumping the gun to label this a racist act of terror.
He was the one who brought the issue up by opening his big yap, then got mad when the media picked up the ball and ran with it, sort of pulling a Giuliani without Giuliani even being there, first implying, then denying his guilt, in almost the same breath, which must be some kind of advanced reverse psychology that looks to us unschooled laymen to be an open admission of guilt. Not being stable geniuses like Donald and Rudy, however, we are patiently assured that what our eyes and ears just told us where Fake News, and we were wrong to assume the obvious. All in all, a weird and attention-grabbing response to an allied and friendly nation’s pain and grief.
Then to add to the bizarre behavior, for some reason Trump decided to mock Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s hand movements when he is speaking, declaring he “has studied them” and decided that (!) O’Rourke must be insane. This from a guy whose frenzied, flailing hand spasms make him look like he’s conducting an orchestra of drunken clowns playing kazoos when he’s making a speech.
Indeed, Trump threw himself a Pity Party on Twitter all weekend instead of attending to any matters of state, or engaging in at least a little perfunctory foreign diplomacy towards a stricken ally, once again wondering if TV comedies and late night talk shows should be (!) criminally prosecuted for mocking him, Tweeting his rage at Fox News suspending one of his favorite racist broadcasters, then capping off his petulant pique by rekindling his feud with a dead man, and the dead man getting the better of the exchange.
First he Tweeted to Fox News to reinstate Muslim-denouncing Jeanine Pirro and to stop threatening Tucker Carlson for a lot of misogynist and racist statements he made on tape 10 years ago, finishing with this Twitter flourish: “The losers all want what you have, don’t give it to them. Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!”
Then he went off on Robert Mueller’s investigative team yet again, calling them either “the 12 Angry Democrats” or “Radical Left Democrats,” and added substantially to his own World Record for the most times that one individual has spoken the phrase “no collusion.”
He also tried to bully General Motors into reopening a factory in Ohio that built a line of cars they no longer produce, and then claimed he would make them build a different model car there, or sell the factory to another car company that would reopen it, which all came as news to GM executives, who have no concrete plans for the site and prefers to run their business themselves.
The almost universal outrage at Trump disrespecting the late Senator and war hero John McCain did not die down. It did not die down because Trump would not let it die down, but instead kept sticking his foot further into his mouth by doubling and tripling down on his vicious slander of a man who served his country with honor and distinction for 60 years and was the Republican Party’s Presidential candidate in 2008, and was almost universally admired in America, even by his political rivals.
Trump even tried to take credit for McCain’s State Funeral, bitching that “I didn’t even get a thank you,” when in fact only Congress can authorize, finance and arrange State Funerals, and they were honoring one of their own, giving McCain the funeral he earned. In stark contrast to his No Collusion mantra, there seems to be one phrase that Trump cannot pronounce: “No Comment.”
We could have done without Monday’s implied threats of a war with Iran, or the news that the latest member of the Strongman Mutual Admiration Society, Brazil’s new president Eduardo Bolsonaro, was given the Red Carpet tour of Washington DC, including visiting (!) CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Called both a dangerous right wing radical and “The Latin Trump,” Bolsonaro described the CIA as “one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world” (at least by people other than the current US president).
On Tuesday we got some odd news about the Special Counsel’s investigation when it was announced that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was staying on at the Justice Department “for the foreseeable future” after having announced he was leaving soon. Rosenstein has been Robert Mueller’s direct superior for almost the entire investigation due to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal of himself from the Russian Collusion case. The current Attorney General William Barr met with Rosenstein at the White House to discuss… well, who knows? As with all things in the Special Counsel’s investigation, the silence is deafening and the anticipation nearly unbearable.
Court proceedings described the Special Counsel’s staff as “having a busy week,” another tantalizing clue that just maybe this investigation is almost over, and we can all finally learn what Robert Mueller has uncovered.
But again we hear “not so fast” from the White House, and also from AG William Barr, who both want to review the report before allowing it to be made public. Or not, or just in pieces, they are “reserving their decision until they have read the report.” This prompted both Houses of Congress to get busy writing bills demanding that the Special Counsel’s report be given to Congress and be made public.
And speaking of Congress, The House of Representatives is conducting numerous separate investigations of the Trump Administration, and on Tuesday the White House missed the deadline for turning over documents requested by multiple Congressional committees, which will likely force Congress to issue subpoenas on the President, his staff and his private companies.
As far as Trump’s business empire, it is under criminal investigation in the Empire State for tax and banking fraud, with Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer and longtime Trump accountant Alan Weiselberg earning immunity in exchange for his testimony, leaving the 4 principals of the company on the hook for alleged crimes against the State of New York, Trump and his 3 eldest children.
Trump’s reaction to all this potential bad news was (what else?) attack attack attack! And who better to attack but the guy who cannot defend himself, as Trump felt oddly compelled once again to vilify the dead, and to callously plunge the still-mourning McCain family into unwanted and sordid national controversy, an unforgivable addition to their grief. To a person like Trump, however, their pain are grief are intangible abstracts that simply do not matter, since these things are not happening to him personally.
On Wednesday Trump gave a rambling condemnation of the Mueller report, characterizing it at length as a “political witch hunt” run by a “conflicted person” loyal to his “best friend” (a lie) and “a bad cop” (another lie) James Comey, and being a borderline treasonous investigation, before saying says he wants Mueller’s report “made public” (a huge lie). The facts are that Mueller is a decorated war hero, a Republican, and a universally respected and celebrated FBI Director and Federal Prosecutor whose best friend is not James Comey and who boasts a 100% conviction rate, a number that scares Trump even sillier than he already is.
Getting in on the Investigation of Trump Officials act was Trump’s own government, when the Pentagon opened an investigation into their own boss, the Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, not, as one might suspect, for having an excessively Irish name, but for suspected preferential treatment of his former employer, Boeing Aircraft.
Boeing made the news this week when the second of their new line of passenger jets, the 737 Max jet, crashed due to faulty software, killing, respectively, 189 and 157 people, a glitch that could have been fixed before delivery, but was instead withheld from purchasers unless they paid extra for the corrective software. While the rest of the world dragged its feet grounding these jets, America hesitated, perhaps in no small measure due to Shanahan’s fatal conflict of interest.
Thursday found Trump ending his chaotic week by (!!) actually doing something presidential when he implemented a strategic foreign policy move. Someone else’s strategy (Benjamin Netanyahu to be specific), sure, but still… by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Trump has in effect endorsed the dismantling of war-ravaged Syria and added 700 square miles to Israel’s diminutive stature. That is, if Israel can hold on to it in the cauldron that is the Middle East, a cauldron Trump (like many a Western political opportunist before him seeking Great Statesman status), doesn’t mind stoking to the boiling point since he doesn’t have to live there.
There have been more Middle East peace plans written by outsiders than there are counterfeit maps to Blackbeard’s buried treasure, with the same rate of success in finding permanent peace as treasure hunters have had finding those fabled chests full of gold. One can’t help but wonder if there is a Trump Tower, Jerusalem in the mix somewhere down the line.
While most of us closed out Week #114 waiting impatiently on Robert Mueller, the United States Congress and the State of New York to bring the hammer down on Trump’s crimes and the damage he is inflicting on all of us, this is how Trump sees it:
“They came from the valleys, they came from the rivers, they came from the cities, they came from all over, they voted in one of the greatest elections in the history of our country…”
While we’re not too sure who came from the rivers, a lot of us are pretty sure we want to send Trump up one.