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General Interest, Politics, Trump Week in Review

WEEK #145 OF THE TRUMP ERA IN REVIEW, FRIDAY, 10/18/19 TO THURSDAY, 10/24/19


When the going gets weird, the weird don’t notice. For the rest of us, however, these days make Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” look like a textbook. We begin Week #145 of The Trump Era on Friday with The Mad Hatter bellowing about putting a stop to a war he started himself the day before when he gave the Walrus permission to seize the Bandersnatch’s backyard. 

If that makes sense to you, congratulations, you’re starting to get the hang of the Trump Era.

On top of the usual cacophonous mendacity of Donald Trump, something very disturbing happened in Congress this week when 30 Republican Congressmen stormed a closed Congressional hearing and shut down the Impeachment Inquiry, looking like a casting call for a Reverse Mortgage advertisement, and in the process violating laws, ethics and credulity, but that came later in this month-long week.

First up, the week began with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (the only thing between Trump and the curb), calling Trump’s abrupt retreat from Syria “a strategic nightmare,“ then added a huge question mark to his unwavering support of Trump when he gave the Senate a lengthy power-point presentation explaining a Senate trial of a president once he is impeached, and cautioned Senators to “expect a lengthy trial.”

Even Trump’s Emotional Support Senator, Lindsey Graham bit him on the ankle when he called Syria “the biggest mistake of his Presidency.” Which Syria mistake he didn’t say, since there were a whole bunch of them. Leave it to Trump to fuck up ending a war we didn’t lose and getting everybody pissed off in the process, and perhaps triggering a new and wider war.

There were, however, two powerful politicians and Trump allies who were pleased at all the chaos in Syria, Presidents Recep Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, who wound up sharing control of Syria when our NATO ally Turkey suddenly formed a flash alliance with Russia against our Kurdish allies with the blessing of NATO superpower America. Confused yet? Take that, Lewis Carroll!

Then we were confronted with unwelcome blasts from our recent past with various news reports mentioning some of the same shadowy cast of characters from the 2016 election hijacking being still active and earnestly attempting to hijack the 2020 election as well. Interestingly enough, some of these same names keep popping up in the Ukrainegate scandal just as we learn of President Trump’s plan to rewrite the history of the 2016 election by absolving the Russians and blaming Ukrainians and the Biden family for the “widespread and systematic election interference by Russia” described in the Mueller Report and confirmed by every American intelligence and law enforcement agency. Some of whom would conceivably fall under (!) criminal investigation by their own departments later in the week for crimes dreamed up by Trump and Rudy Giuliani and “investigated personally” by Attorney General William Barr in such far-flung locations as Italy, Australia and up Trump’s ass, with only the third source offering anything in the way of confirmation, if not hard evidence. 

Between the large number of Federal officials coming forward and saying “yep, Trump did it” and the large numbers of public confessions of the crime by the President, his staff and his attorney, a picture emerges of a comic conspiracy being cooked up by Trump, Giuliani and whichever public servants they were able to corrupt. Those who refused to go along with this criminal enterprise either resigned or were fired.

Dmitro Firtash and Oleg Deripaska are 2 names that’s won’t go away, and on Robert Mueller’s criminal referral to British authorities, Deripaska’s company and holdings in the United Kingdom were seized on Friday, with all documents and files being shared with the FBI. Firtash, renowned for his shady dealings with former Trump Campaign Chairman and current prison inmate Paul Manafort and his involvement in the 2016 election hijacking, now seems somehow involved in Rudy Giuliani’s shadow campaign to help Trump extort Ukrainian President Zelensky to frame his political rival for imaginary crimes and claim it was his country all along that hacked an American election. 

The two associates of Giuliani that were arrested just steps away from fleeing the country, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are Russian and Ukrainian mob-connected thugs who were caught funneling $350,000 in illegal campaign contributions to the Trump 2016 Campaign and a Trump Super Pac, money traced to a Russian oligarch seeking political information and input on the 2016 GOP Platform, which is about 4 serious crimes right there. Both men were headed to Vienna, as was Rudy Giuliani before events put the kibosh on his trip, where Firtash just is happens to be under House Arrest on an American warrant. Sure it could be a coincidence, but these stars of the Mueller Report who escaped justice aren’t exactly lying low when they have Rudy Giuliani’s cell phone on Speed Dial. 

Speaking of Russian election interference, Hillary Clinton made public some information she received alleging that Russia was grooming Democratic Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard for a Third Party presidential run in an attempt to spilt the Democratic vote and ensure a second term for Trump, something about which Trump has remained uncharacteristically silent. 

And speaking of private citizens making political news, once again we hear of another instance of Giuliani using his influence, this time pushing the State Department to grant a visa to an “unnamed Ukrainian official” willing to deliver dirt on Trump’s political rivals, adding another charge for the investigators already conducting a criminal investigation of Rudy’s clandestine activities.

Then we come to the Second Day of Week #145, when on Saturday Trump withdrew his bid to host next year’s G-7 Summit at his Miami hotel. As always, he found someone to blame for his own bonehead decisions: “Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020.” He did, however, manage to squeeze in a lengthy advertisement for the hotel in question and lamenting the loss to the world of seeing wealthy people enjoy “the best, most luxurious G-7 ever.” And as always on Saturday, the US Treasury was lighter by the cost of another multimillion dollar round of golf at yet another Trump property.

On Sunday the Russian spy who seduced the NRA and half the Republican National Committee, Maria Butina, was released from prison for espionage and, to the relief of older White married men in suits all over the country, scheduled to be deported to Russia, where she will either be rewarded with a medal for heroism, or suffer a tragic balcony accident, a hard one to call.

Then Mick Mulvaney, proving himself somewhat less than a quick study in front of cameras and microphones, added gasoline to the Ukrainian fire he lit on Thursday (“We do it all the time. Get over it!”) when that voice inside him thought it would be a good idea to wax eloquent about the Miami/G-7 fiasco, saying about Trump; “At the end of the day, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business, and he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world and he wanted to put on the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could and he was very confident of doing that at Doral.”

Later on, the soon-to-be-replaced Acting Chief of Staff grew philosophical about his communication skills: “Did I have the perfect press conference? No. But again, the facts are on our side.” Good points, as long as you ignore the “facts are on our side” part of it. 

Sunday also introduced us to one Randy Perkins, a contractor who never donated very much to any politician before, who donated $500,000 to America First Action, a pro-Trump Super PAC, a day after his company won federal money as part of a contract. This same PAC was dubbed “Committee 1” in more Mueller-referred criminal cases, and is the same above-mentioned Super Pac to which Rudy’s two arrested Stooges illegally funneled $350,000 of a Russian oligarch’s dough. Not only is the Ukrainegate web widening, it is time-traveling back to 2016, no doubt pleasing to nostalgia buffs longing for a return to the halcyon days of only a single scandal per day.

Monday finds us hearing from the boots on the ground, those American soldiers who served alongside our now-abandoned Kurd allies, telling reporters how humiliated and betrayed they feel, and things like this:

“I fought with these guys and watched them die for us.”

Then we got to hear news from the Kurd’s tormentor, President Erdoğan, when he announced his intention to have Turkey join the Nuclear Weapons Club, a prospect not relished by anyone witnessing his sudden artillery and air assault on the Kurds, offering no discussion beforehand.

Between the clusterfuck he created in Syria and the crime he admitted to and is getting him impeached, Trump needed to stop and think, to gather himself, compose his thoughts, and then present a thoughtful, measured response to the controversies surrounding him.

That’s what he needed to do, of course, not what he did. Again, that guy’s not president anymore, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. What he did was give a 71-minute Pity Party of a monologue that was half insane lies and half vicious attacks on his fellow Americans and members of the government he nominally leads. That is, when he’s not busy denouncing it, dismantling parts of it and threatening to prosecute other parts.

Trump rambled on about, in no particular order, “the phony Emoluments Clause (it’s a real thing),” how he’s the only president to donate his salary (2 others did), how George Washington ran his business as president (there’s no proof), claimed Obama violated the Emoluments Clause he just said was phony (Obama didn’t and again its not phony), did another commercial for his Miami hotel, shrugged off the dead Kurds he threw to the wolves, claimed Obama tried to call Kim Jong Un unsuccessfully 11 times (he never called Kim), claimed he was against the Iraq war in spite of an earlier endorsement on camera, speculated that Congressman Adam Schiff was a White House informant (an impossibility), claimed that a document clearly labeled “Not An Exact Transcript” was an “Exact Transcript of a perfect call,” claimed he’s bringing the troops home when he was sending them to Iraq and Saudi Arabia, claimed the regional Syria mission was “a 30-Day Mission (there was never a timetable),” the whistleblower “gave a false account (he or she did not),” that China was paying for the tariffs (Nope, that would be you and I picking up that sizable bar tab), China’s economy had its worst quarter in 57 years (more like 25 years), then went off on his usual manic tangent of making up crazy lies about his crowd sizes, generally giving everyone in the room the creeps, to say nothing of millions of viewers sharing the cruel misfortune of having a smirking clown as president.

Then he (!) declared victory in Syria, a fairly unique way to describe headlong retreat, abject capitulation, base betrayal and international humiliation. When he said “People have been trying to make this deal for years,” he had to have known that there was no reason for anyone to even think about making this deal since the situation did not exist until he created it just a few days prior. He was right about one thing concerning his victory speech, “a lot of people said Wow.” Yes. Yes they did say wow. Many of them more than once.

Especially after learning that the whole idea of “Ukrainian corruption” was Vladimir Putin’s talking point to Trump on numerous occasions, reinforced by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who together convinced the strategically illiterate Trump that Ukraine is ”a hostile nation.” In Putin’s case, that would be Ukrainian hostility towards Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and military occupation of Crimea. 

Trump closed out his eventful Monday with speculation that the message-challenged Mick Mulvaney would soon be replaced by (!) Kellyanne Conway, who never met a lie she didn’t like, and then by urging Republicans in Congress “to get tough” and defend their president from the “lynching” and “attempted coup by the Democrats” that he calls the lawful impeachment inquiry that is currently going on in Congress. He also had Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tell the Saudis that all is forgiven for the bone saw murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi when Munuchin announced he would be attending the same annual Saudi Investment Conference he had to skip last year to make it look like the Trump Administration wasn’t jealous of being able to dismember recalcitrant journalists as a warning to the rest of those enemies of the people.

On Tuesday, the Acting Ambassador to the Ukraine, William B Taylor, testified to Congress about the Ukrainian operation, opening the proceedings with a 15 page-long opening statement that can be boiled down to “Yeah Trump fucking did it, and Rudy Giuliani is crazy old coot who’s going to start a war with his idiotic schemes and his big fucking mouth!” Or words to that effect, only couched in more diplomatic terms.

The only reason Mr. Taylor was the acting Ambassador to Ukraine was because the regular Ambassador to Ukraine was fired by Trump for refusing to go along with his and Giuliani’s extortion. Any notion Trump might have had that William Taylor would hop on board the crazy train was dispelled by Mr. Taylor’s incredible detailed and unambiguous testimony, complete with a thorough paper trail. 

It was a day of admonitions for Trump, when Mitch McConnell called out his use of the racially-charged term “lynching” to describe “a lawful impeachment inquiry,” making it twice in one week that McConnell poked Trump in the eye. Then we learned that the famous “Anonymous,” the White House insider who wrote that celebrated Op Ed piece in The New York Times last year shredding Trump’s disastrous White House performance, has now written a book called “A Warning,” to which the world reacted, “well, no shit!”

It’s not exactly like we need White House insiders anymore to tell us how bad it is when all the other White House insiders confirm it publicly every day. To top off the day, we learned that Turkey and Russia formed an impromptu military alliance to share Syria, and that Kellyanne Conway was the frontrunner to become the next White House Chief of Staff, leaving us uncertain as to which is the worse news.

Wednesday showed us one Republican with a conscience, and thirty of them with none between them. In the morning, the former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced that she left office because “saying no” and refusing to do things that others in the Trump Administration wanted was “not going to be enough,” and that they would always find others willing to do their dirty work. Presumably one of the things that led to Secretary Nielsen’s resignation is the rarely mentioned existence of Children’s Concentration Camps that are still doing a brisk trade for wealthy Private Prison Corporations. Is there a sadder commentary on Trump’s America that there is no shortage private corporations eager and willing to build and run prisons for children?

A little later on, 30 Republican Congressmen made history, and not the “I was proud to witness this” kind of history. After meeting with President Trump the previous night, Representative Matt Gaetz led 30 GOP Congressman to storm a secure hearing area in the basement of the Capitol Building to disrupt the impeachment inquiry, demanding entry into closed hearings and shutting the inquiry down for 5 hours.

The fact that some of the Republicans in this rabble were members of the 3 Committees ruling the Impeachment inquiry and had as much access and ability to question witnesses as any Democrat on the panels was well known to all in attendance, but the adherence to their own rules, and to the nations’ laws that they swore to uphold was considered optional when those rules and laws did not suit their agenda. Taking their cue from Trump “to get tougher on Democrats,” they adapted his own strategy as well, to use laws like wooden clubs to beat others down, and as firewood when they are the ones under investigation.

Trump was far from the scene of the crime, at something called “The Shale Insight Conference” in Pittsburgh, a collection of the purveyors of one of the dirtiest and most destructive forms of energy, as fitting a place as any to boast about his achievements in the field of removing the pollution regulations from fossil fuels. Of course in no time he turned it into a MAGA rally when he began mewling at length about “Witch Hunts, Democrats, Mitt Romney and other Never-Trump Republicans,” who he called “human scum.”

Adding insult to the injury of his Syria policy, Trump attempted to further explain himself, never a good omen. When “Let them fight over this bloodstained sand” is what he calls “the best possible outcome,” we’re not talking The Magna Carta here, and describing the ethnic cleansing and forced relocation of Kurds by saying “they went a few miles in a slightly different direction,” is like calling the Exodus “a slight detour.” He dismissed the escape of hundreds of ISIS fighters held in Kurdish prisons by saying “a few got out, relatively speaking,” and was so pleased by this wretched “victory” that he lifted the sanctions on Turkey.

On Thursday we found out that the President’s assessment of victory was not a universally-held opinion in the Administration when U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper lashed out at Turkey for its military assault across the border on Syrian Kurdish fighters, which can only mean one thing, that Trump will be shopping for a new Secretary of Defense too very soon.

On Thursday the closed door depositions before the House Impeachment inquiry resumed when Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Laura Cooper testified about the what a dumbass idea the Ukraine fiasco was, and for good measure publicized the letter from the White House instructing her not to cooperate with the House of Representatives.

And Speaking of Dumbass Ideas with a Capital Dumbass, William Barr announced on Thursday that the Justice department would investigate its own investigation of the Russian Election Interference investigation in 2016, in effect investigating the imaginary crimes invented by Trump and Giuliani, and potentially throwing the full weight of the Department of Justice against the… (wait, this doesn’t sound right, does it?)… the Department of Justice. On a related note, California is burning again.

And the week ends with memories of a far better man, Representative Elijah Cummings, taken last week at just 68. This humble son of Sharecroppers, Baltimore and the Civi Rights Movement spent a lifetime showing us how good Americans can be, and how much better we can be. An American giant lies in State in the Capitol, a powerful reminder that things don’t have to be this way, we can make them better.

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