Quote of The Week: “Now what?” ~ the Universe
It’s been quite some time since anyone said “surely this is as bad as it gets and we can sink no lower,” and Week #144 of the Trump Era proves just why we stopped saying such naive things. Yes it can, and yes it will get crazier and worse. There is no bottom, there are no limits.
And yet, when a week starts out on Friday with the President losing 5 law suits in the space of a few hours, putting a crimp in his delaying and document-withholding tactics concerning the multiple criminal investigations into his activities and outlawing his misuse of the declaration of a National Emergency to steal funds for his wall, and then watching him turn a political rally in Louisiana into an embarrassing public therapy session, and that still wasn’t his worst day of his week, the temptation is near overwhelming to whip out the superlatives, or whatever is the opposite of superlatives.
That was also the day that career Diplomat and (until very recently) Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch testified before Congress that Trump had her removed from office, even though the State Department declared she had done nothing wrong, because she refused to go along with his crimes by cooperating with rogue operatives Rudy Giuliani and his trio of shady henchmen, all 3 of whom have been arrested.
Ms. Yovanavich also delivered a chilling description of how President Trump runs foreign policy as a means to achieve personal gain rather than serving the interests of the country by using private influence outside of government to usurp the authority and judgement of diplomats (an accusation proven later in the week by Gordon Sondland), driving dedicated career diplomatic professionals out of the State Department in favor of political hacks and ham-handed thugs, creating chaos out of long-established order, protocol and professionalism.
Also opening Week #144 we were treated to the resignation of yet another Acting Director of the Department of Homeland Security after only 6 months in the job, one Kevin McAleenan, and the news that the Ambassador to the European Union would be testifying before Congress in spite of being ordered not to do so by Trump, and telling anyone who cared to listen that yes indeed he cooperated with Giuliani’s crazy criminal conspiracy because the president ordered him to do so. It seems it is finally dawning on Trump’s minions that the cloak of presidential immunity does not extend beyond Trump’s ample butt, and they are all on the hook for potential criminal charges and serious jail time.
Small wonder he treated his campaign rally that night in Lake Charles, Louisiana as a public therapy session, a Pity Party of embarrassing dimensions, complete with vicious and profanity-laced false accusations against his fellow Americans, incredibly transparent lies, empty boasts, the mocking of (!) Pulitzer Prize winners, and featuring an unbelievably bizarre and jaw-dropping performance by the President of the United States when he crudely and bizarrely impersonated (!!) FBI agents having sex, surely a first in the annals of presisdential speechmaking. And still this was not his worst moment of Week #144.
Saturday arrived with his usual multi-million dollar round of golf and the news that Vladimir Putin was gloating about America’s retreat from Syria and the escape of ISIS fighters in the custody of the Kurds that Trump betrayed and abandoned to Turkish aggression on one side and Russian armies on the other.
Then we learned that no, the President will indeed not be hiring Former US Representative and Benghazi whore Trey Gowdy to join his legal criminal defense team (and the answer is no, most presidents do not have large criminal defense teams of attorneys, or even a single defense lawyer), as was announced earlier. This non-hiring was due to one of the few regulations Trump has not abolished, some arcane legislative mandate that demands that lawyers act within the law, in spite of Attorney General William Barr’s recent efforts to dispel that quaint notion.
Trump’s response was to announce a new trade deal with China, even though it was a minor deal that had not even been fleshed out, never mind signed, as the spoilsport Chinese were quick to point out, remaining irritatingly ignorant of the arts of empty boasting and declaring victories where there were none.
Sunday saw Putin’s prediction come true as ISIS fighters began escaping from Kurdish prisons, and our abandoned Kursdish allies quickly negotiating with Russia to avoid annihilation. Thus did Trump accomplish a longstanding goal in the Middle East. No, not an American goal, but the once-elusive Russian goal of achieving a permanent foothold in the Middle East, a wish thwarted by all of Trump’s predecessors and now handed on a silver platter to Trump’s patron, Vladimir Putin.
Leave it to Trump to fuck up ending a war that we did not lose, a debacle of such huge and far-reaching proportions that prompted even his most ardent sycophant and apologist, Senator Lindsey Graham, to declare Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from Syria to be a compete disaster, and “the worst decision of Trump’s presidency.”
On Monday, Trump’s Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, Fiona Hill, who had served the previous 2 presidents in a similar capacity, testified behind closed doors to Congress about her decision to resign her post this past August in protest of Ukrainegate. She treated us to a quote from John Bolton as he distanced himself from Giuliani and his trio of low-rent thugs “I Am Not Part of Whatever Drug Deal Rudy and Mulvaney Are Cooking Up,” all at once revealing a scheme involving the retail marijuana business and implicating Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (who would himself confirm his willing participation later in the week). Bolton also refereed to Giuliani as “a hand grenade who’s going blow everybody up,” before instructing Ms. Hill to notify the White House lawyers (not Trump’s personal attorneys, 2 of whom are implicated in Ukrainegate) about the unfolding crimes in Ukraine.
Then, completely contradicting Trump’s Saturday announcement about a new Chinese trade deal, The Treasury Department threatened to impose new tariffs on $156 billion in additional Chinese goods if a trade deal is not finalized by December 15. Vladimir Putin added more rain on Trump’s parade by criticizing Trump for trashing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as unreasonable and dangerous.
Trump’s response was to levy sanctions on Turkey for an invasion that he himself approved, and to demand a cease fire in the offensive that saw American troops coming under artillery fire by Turkish Forces. It seems that our troops stationed in Syria had exactly no preparation for Trump’s whim, and were left with no exit strategy and no logistical support for withdrawing from the region. So unprepared was America’s military for an abrupt retreat that American commanders were forced to bomb (!) our own hastily-deserted military base in Syria rather than allow it to fall into enemy hands along with sensitive information, American weapons, supplies and vehicles.
Tuesday found George Kent, a senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy, also testifying before Congress in defiance of Trump’s orders that he refuse to cooperate, about how he was cut out of the decision-making loop regarding Ukraine by Mick Mulvaney, a man who knows about as much about Ukraine as Trump (zilch).
The only one refusing Congressional subpoenas in the Ukraine debacle was private citizen Rudy “How Is This Helping Anyone?” Giuliani, who announced that he would defy Congress by declaring himself some sort of Minister Without Portfolio (we don’t have such titles in our system of government) operating on behalf of the President and the United States, and therefore above the law and the authority of Congress.
With all this on his plate, one would think that Trump had little time for reminiscing about his Reality TV Show star days, but on Tuesday he took the time to do some serious emotional damage to a grieving British family whose son was killed by the wife of an American diplomat who was driving on the wrong side of the road when her car fatally struck the teenager. Trump had previously made light of the incident (“I’ve done the same thing!”), and the woman had fled to the USA under the cloak of Diplomatic Immunity as the wife of a diplomat.
The grieving family had travelled to America to petition the White House for some measure of justice for their son, and were amazed to find that it was the President himself who recieved them. Their surprise soon turned to horror when Trump told them that the woman who killed their son, Anna Sacoolas, was (!!) “right in the next room” and asked if they wished to meet her. To their credit, they did not wish to meet her, ruining Trump’s dramatic Reality Show climax for the disappointed White House film crews and photographers. Somewhere in Britain, the Queen was not amused.
On Wednesday, in an attempt to head off criminal charges against anyone without the title President, the White House staff voted to conduct “an internal review” of the infamous Ukraine call that has sparked an ever-widening criminal investigation, while Trump’s defense attorneys, private citizens with no immunity from anything, hired their own defense attorneys as their role in Ukrainegate emerged.
That was also that day that Rudy’s third shady operative, David Correia, was arrested at a New York airport, accused of conspiring with his other two stooges, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to make illegal political donations to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states with the aim of trying to get support for a new recreational marijuana business, on top of charges stemming from their illegal Ukraine adventures. A fourth Giuliani stooge (let’s just call him ”Shemp,” shall we?), Andrey Kukushkin, was also arrested for the same crimes as Correia, lending credence to Bolton’s “drug deal” charge and leaving us to wonder what other crimes these crazy bastards were cooking up in the name of the United States of America.
Then Trump, marking 1,000 says in office (it only seems like 10,000) by refusing to admit his colossal error in Syria, spoke to reporters defending his abandonment of our allies by libeling their characters and accusing them of being mercenaries, and justifying handing Syria to Putin by saying saying this was Russia’s backyard and not ours (“We’re 9,000 miles away!”), then shrugging off the whole debacle by saying out loud and for the cameras (!!!) “They’ve got a lot of sand over there, so there’s a lot of sand that they can play with.” Then he opined how this was “a great day for civilization” and how the Kurds are better off now than when they weren’t getting attacked and killed by an America ally on one side and Russia on the other.
That was also the day our own warplanes bombed our own military base back into sand, and the day that Congress voted to Censure Trump by an overwhelming majority for allowing all this to happen.
That official Censure was apparently sticking in Trump’s craw when a White House meeting with Congressional leaders took place and he had a meltdown of (even for him) epic proportions, completely ignoring the business at hand to launch into a furious diatribe, once again obsessing over amorous FBI agents (“the two great lovers!”), then launching into bizarre accusations about imaginary Ukranian interference in the 2016 elections on behalf of Hillary Clinton and decrying the corruption of “Comey, McCabe, right up to Obama,” about an administration that lasted 8 years without a single scandal (other than that beige suit of course).
Then he called Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “a 3rd-grade politician,” among other personal insults. Madame Speaker remained cool and unruffled, even noting that he could not even get an insult right (It’s 3rd-rate, not 3rd-grade, you boob!) and got in Trump’s face, telling him “all roads with you lead to Putin.” As she and her Democratic leadership colleagues walked out of the meeting, Trump added “I didn’t invite any of you here,” to which Pelosi reminded him that he was the one who called the meeting, and the one who refused to discuss any of the scheduled business at hand.
Later on, Ms. Pelosi calmly told reporters about the frightening encounter with a completely unhinged president, and added that we should “pray for his mental health.” Of course Trump tried to portray it as the exact opposite later on Twitter, calling her “Nervous Nancy” and accusing her of being the one to have melted down, seemingly unaware that the whole thing was caught on camera, complete with a roomful of Trump Administration officials looking like they were desperately trying to find their inner Happy Place while their boss foamed at the mouth as he spouted indecipherable gibberish.
Later that day, Trump revealed perhaps the most ridiculous letter ever sent from one head of state to another, one so absurdly childish and insulting that President Erdoğan reportedly ripped it to shreds and immediately launched his military offensive.
“Dear Mr. President: Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will. I’ve already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson. I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received. History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
Then Trump signed it with his trademark Sharpie scribblature, one that looks suspiciously like that part of the Lie Detector Test readout where you’re lying your ass off.
So, one would image, Wednesday had to be that worst day of the week for President Pinnochio, but Week #144 had more to give. Enter one Gordon Sondland, whose only qualifications for being appointed ambassador to the European Union were being a hotel magnate like Trump and donating very generously to his election campaign and to Trump Super Pacs. Much like Trump, he was universally scorned by members of the EU for his lack of knowledge, his vulgar crudeness, his bullying tactics and his disregard for diplomatic protocols.
Representative Elijah Cummings died Thursday morning, an American political icon of well-deserved stature and renown, and a great loss to our country. He was the head of the House Oversight Committee, a committee deeply involved in the investigations of Trump’s crimes, and Cummings was signing subpoenas for White House officials and documents even on his death bed. To his credit, Trump has not yet attacked this fallen hero or tried to make his death all about himself. At least not yet.
On Thursday Sondland, in defiance of Trump’s directive to refuse to cooperate, testified before Congress and threw Trump to the wolves, describing in detail how Trump directed Giuliani to push his crazy Ukraine scheme designed to convince people that Russia was innocent of their proven 2016 election interference and that (!) Ukraine was the real culprit, and was acting on Hillary Clinton’s behalf, an idea so absurd and so thoroughly debunked no one in their right mind would pursue them.
Turns out no on in their right mind did (Trump and Giuliani don’t qualify), and Sondland informed us that “My understanding was that the president directed Mr. Giuliani’s participation, that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the concerns of the president,” and saying his was “disappointed in the president’s efforts to have his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, interfere in foreign affairs.” He further added, in a master class in Covering Your Own Ass, “withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings.” He testified that he helped Giuliani only because he was “ordered to do so by the President, who I am obliged to obey,” the same “I was only following orders” rationale that didn’t work out so well in Nuremberg 70 years ago, but worth a shot.
Then Mick Mulvaney decided to earn his keep as Chief of Staff and straighten out this unholy mess of a week with a press conference. Bad idea. Mulvaney openly admitted that the reason the military aid was withheld from Ukraine was because Trump wanted them to investigate the imaginary crimes of Joe Biden and his son Hunter and to find the Maltese Server loaded with Hillary’s emails that Trump claimed was being passed around by Ukrainian oligarchs in a plot to hide the truth from the American people.
Mulvaney admitted it and then confirmed his admission repeatedly before catching himself and trying to unring those bells with a weak denial that did not even appear to convince himself, making the day 2-for-2 in Trump aides setting fire to Trump’s house of popsicle sticks.
“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney said. “Get over it, there is going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Only thing is, “we” don’t do that all the time, and it’s only Trump and his Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight that commits such crimes and then defends them earnestly as “business as usual.”
This seemed like a good time for Mulvaney to depart the podium before he made things even worse for his boss, yet some voice in his head compelled him to continue, and told him that this would be the optimum time to reveal that next year’s G-7 meeting would be held in one of Trump’s own properties, The Trump Doral in Miami, finally offering a concrete example of those esoteric “emoluments” that are expressly forbidden in the Constitution. Then there’s the sticky fact that the host country has the option to invite Russia to participate again, which was not lost on chary observers, so perhaps we will see the political equivalent of Justin Timberlake rejoining N’Sync when Putin’s presence makes it the G-8 again next year.
And so Week #144 of the Trump Era ends after 1,001 Nights of Trump, the same number of Nights it took Scheherazade to run out of stories to tell, after which she was rewarded by being made Queen. So far Trump seems like he’s got a whole lot more fantastic stories to tell, none of them nearly as entertaining as Scheherazade’s, or remotely true. Let’s hope our 1,001 Nights has a very different ending.