Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
Forget Infrastructure Week, this was Chaos Week for the Trump regime. OK, every week is, but this one seemed more manic, as Trump is reportedly becoming comfortable with his role as Great Leader, and is having a blast lashing out at his confused and perhaps traumatized minions. “Never in the 14 months of the Trump White House has there been such a mood of acute anxiety from within the West Wing,” reported Axios. “Nobody knows what exactly is happening, who’s about to be fired, or which staffer will next be frogmarched out the door by security for some shadowy clearance issue.”
This was, of course, capped off with the firing of former FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe just a day before he was set to retire, which could mean he loses his pension. One would think that a White House that wanted the Russia story to go away wouldn’t constantly push it front and center, but that’s where we are.
“Integrity is our brand,” said comedic genius Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, who falsely testified under oath that he "did not have communications with the Russians" and lied on his application for a security clearance, says McCabe was fired because he “lacked candor multiple times.”
This isn’t a shiny object or a mere distraction; it’s a dangerous example of politicizing the federal bureaucracy. Patriots should be prepared to take action if, as seems increasingly likely, Trump moves to shut down Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Kremlingate probe. MoveOn.org and its allied groups have a site, Nobody Is Above the Law, with rapid response materials for that scenario. Check it out.
And let’s see what fresh Hell may gotten lost in the madness this week.
Speaking of Jefferson Beauregard, Jeff Hauser reported for Slate that “Jeff Sessions is abusing a little-used statute in an unprecedented way that is leading to an end run around the Senate’s advice and consent authority with respect to U.S. attorneys. Given what we know about the ongoing investigations into the president and Trump’s authoritarian instincts, this is a frightening and dangerous development.”
Among the 17 prosecutors Sessions has appointed without Senate confirmation are three who will make investigative and prosecutorial decisions in NY. One of them, Geoffrey Berman, is presiding over New York’s Southern district. While the district has a “history of exerting its independence from presidential administrations,” according to Law.com, Berman is a former colleague of Rudy Giuliani, “a high-profile ally of President Donald Trump.”
This may prove to be a consequential appointment, as Bloomberg’s Caleb Melby reported this week that, “two months after Jared Kushner joined the White House as a senior adviser, his family firm sold a stake in a Brooklyn building to a unit of a company whose largest shareholder is the government of Japan…
“Questions have been raised repeatedly whether Kushner, whose family business has been in search of overseas investors, might pursue a personal agenda while helping run U.S. policy. This is the first known deal with a government-affiliated firm since he entered the White House.”
Relatedly, The New York Times reported this week that “Jared Kushner’s family company recently began construction on an oceanfront development in this Jersey Shore city, a project that has the strong backing of local officials, who agreed to support it with $20 million in bonds.”
But unknown to Long Branch officials, the Kushners have been in talks to team up with another family-run company that has an even bigger presence in the White House: the Trump Organization.
The long-running talks blur the line between family, business and politics in ways that lack precedent: Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, retain financial interests in their family businesses. The Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser has raised questions about a potential deal — one reason the two-year-long discussions have not been completed.
Speaking of the swamp, “Donald Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a longtime hunting buddy who helped raise millions of dollars for his father’s 2016 presidential campaign and has had special access to top government officials since the election,” according to the Associated Press.
And speaking of hunting buddies, the AP also reported that “a new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos is stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to President Donald Trump’s family.”
Trump’s new International Wildlife Conservation Council is dominated by group who’s most famous member killed Cecil… https://t.co/RU46h28JaW— Stephanie Mencimer (@Stephanie Mencimer) 1521209749.0
They really seem to have a disdain for animals. We’ve mentioned that Pineapple Pinochet is the first POTUS in 130 years not to have a first Pooch. And now this fresh Hell, via The Hill…
The Trump administration has decided to withdraw an Obama-era rule that would have set new standards for the way animals should be treated if their meat is going to be sold as “certified organic.”
Finalized under the Obama administration in April 2016, the rule largely dictated how producers and handlers participating in the National Organic Program are required to treat livestock and poultry to ensure their wellbeing.
The rule stipulated, for example, that poultry must be housed in spaces that are big enough for the birds to move freely, stretch their wings, stand normally and engage in natural behaviors. Livestock, meanwhile, must be provided access to an outdoor space year round.
Speaking of chattel, did you catch that 18 Republican members of Congress came out in favor of slavery this week? Does that sound too crazy? Is there another, more charitable way to interpret this?
Private-prison companies that force undocumented immigrant detainees to work for little or no money have a powerful new group of advocates: Eighteen members of Congress.
The members, all Republicans, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Labor, calling for them to help private-prison company GEO Group defend itself in lawsuits by former detainees.
Betsy Woodruff has more on that at The Daily Beast.
This item from The Huffington Post probably should have gotten more attention given the way the regime responded at the time to a domestic terror attack targeting Muslims…
An Illinois contractor bidding to build President Donald Trump’s wall on the Mexican border was among three men arrested Tuesday in connection with the bombing of a mosque in Minnesota and the attempted bombing of a women’s health clinic in Illinois.
Michael B. Hari, 47, was arrested and charged Tuesday in federal court in lllinois with arson and possession of machine guns.
Remember how Seb Gorka said Trump hadn't condemned the bombing of a Minnesota mosque because it could have been lef… https://t.co/7pPZi4YBAG— Robert Maguire (@Robert Maguire) 1521125442.0
Experts on the subject say we shouldn’t worry about creeping totalitarianism or jackbooted thugs disappearing people in the middle of the night because modern authoritarian governments find that allowing some degree of dissent lets the population blow off steam. They find it easier to manage a country when they permit a veneer of democracy to continue – as long as they control the outcome of elections, that is. They say that in countries like Turkey, Russia or the Philippines, life seems pretty normal for most people. It’s the proverbial frog in the pot – you may not notice that you’ve lost a pluralistic, liberal democracy until you have.
So let’s take careful note of this story from Annie Linskey at The Boston Globe…
President Trump would be able to dispatch Secret Service agents to polling places nationwide during a federal election, a vast expansion of executive authority, if a provision in a Homeland Security reauthorization bill remains intact.
The rider has prompted outrage from more than a dozen top elections officials around the country, including Secretary of State William F. Galvin of Massachusetts, a Democrat, who says he is worried that it could be used to intimidate voters and said there is “no basis” for providing Trump with this new authority.
The Senate did not include a similar provision in its version, so we’ll have to watch how this shakes out when the two versions are reconciled.
You probably heard about the mayhem at a Trump branded residential hotel in Panama. Investors appear to have staged a coup of sorts, declaring that the Trump Organization had failed to live up to its contract to manage the joint and keep it occupied – Trump’s brand is a stinking pile of dogshit in Latin America, as you might imagine – and physically removing its staff. There were assaults, people brandished guns, the cops made multiple visits to the property – it was a big mess.
Well, Betsy Woodruff reported this week for The Daily Beast this week that while the property was hemorrhaging cash, “Pentagon officials spent more than $17,000 at the Trump Ocean Club hotel in Panama in the first half of 2017, according to documents obtained by a government watchdog group. The money was spent to cover general lodging expenses, according to the documents. It isn’t clear why.”
That was just a fraction of the $140,000 the DoD spent at Trump properties in the first eight months of his presidency, according to CNN.
A few stories from the Only the Best People file…
Naved Jafry, who got a gig as a senior advisor to HUD, “said he was a multimillionaire – an international property developer with a plan to fix America’s cities through radical privatization,” reported The Guardian. “He felt that Donald Trump’s administration was where he was meant to work.” Turns out he’s just another grafter who resigned this week after The Guardian “asked him to explain multiple allegations of fraud as well as exaggerations in his biography.”
Andrew Kaczynski reported for CNN that Ken Isaacs, Trump’s “pick to head the United Nations organization that coordinates assistance to migrants worldwide regularly pushed anti-Muslim sentiment, including claims that Muslims were trying to impose Sharia law in the US.”
Kaczynski, along with Nathan McDermott, also reported this week that “the new advocacy director at a nonprofit group aligned with President Donald Trump shared an N-word laden post written by someone else on Facebook in December 2014.” Carl Higbie, who resigned from Americorps in January after an earlier report found that he had a history of saying wildly offensive things about Muslims and people of color, appears to have landed on his feet in Trumpworld.