Marmalade Mobutu would probably be a used car salesman in Queens if his father hadn’t been such a successful slumlord. He’s a good salesman, but not the sharpest tack in the box. He is, however, a towering genius – or perhaps idiot savant is more appropriate – when it comes to manipulating the news cycle and shifting our focus from his disastrous presidency to various shiny objects. (Some believe that he’s just a rambling old man who watches too much Fox News and doesn’t to do this intentionally, which would make the feat even more impressive.)
There was no better example of this talent than his impulsive pardon of belligerent hate-chipmunk and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza. This executive action, announced by Tweet, came just as the stock market was tumbling after the European Union and Mexico announced that they were preparing to levy countervailing tariffs on US goods; a landmark study which found that 4,600 American citizens in Puerto Rico had died in Hurricane Maria, a figure 70 times greater than the official estimates, had first been reported two days earlier and was at that point starting to gain traction across the media. Outrage over the administration’s policy of tearing families apart at the border – including asylum-seekers who crossed legally – had also been gaining steam but was immediately diverted by Trump doing his thing.
Flashback: Trump told Puerto Rican officials they should be "very proud" that hundreds of people haven't died after… https://t.co/HTrP78I83e— Kyle Griffin (@Kyle Griffin)1527606919.0
We saw something similar with the contrived outrage over Samantha Bee calling Ivanka a “feckless cunt.” The White House demanded TBS cancel Bee’s show because they don’t give a shit about how it looks for the executive branch to make such authoritarian demands and because they wanted a scalp to retaliate for the cancellation of “Roseanne” – never mind the fact that Roseanne was shown the door not because she said something offensive, but because she refused to stop tweeting offensive, embarrassing shit after management repeatedly asked her to. It was the Mother of All False Equivalences, but Trump got us all talking about Bee’s supposed transgression rather than the dumpster-fire-burning-on-top-of-a-trainwreck that is this presidency.
We’re not sure anything can be done about this. It's easy to say that the media -- and those of us on social media – shouldn’t constantly take the bait, but that’s not really possible. Trump may be a 4chan-style internet troll, but he’s also the president of the United States. When the guy with the nuclear football offers up some batshit-crazy conspiracy theory, you really can’t just ignore it.
Today Trump attacked the Mueller for how much the Russia investigation has cost tax payers. But the government ha… https://t.co/IMZyP97nZV— Nate Lerner (@Nate Lerner)1527890687.0
Now let’s turn to a few stories that might have gotten lost amid the chaos.
“A day after President Donald Trump announced he would consider easing penalties against a controversial Chinese electronics company, that company enlisted a Trump campaign veteran to make its case in Washington,” reports Lachlan Markay for The Daily Beast. “The Mercury consultant working on the [ZTE] account is Bryan Lanza, a veteran of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Less than two weeks after Lanza’s work began, the Trump administration announced that it had reached a tentative deal to ease those penalties
The dots surrounding Trump’s sudden decision to bailout ZTE are pretty easy to connect. China has been granting Trump and his family valuable trademarks – including some that they had previously rejected -- since shortly after the 2016 election. A Chinese state-run firm also sunk $500 million into an Indonesian resort project that Trump has a big stake in. So presto! -- the guy who rants about “Jina” ripping us off all the time is suddenly concerned about Chinese jobs.
Evan Halper reports for The Los Angeles Times that Scott Pruitt’s EPA is moving “to unleash on freeways a class of rebuilt trucks that spew as much as 400 times the choking soot that conventional new big rigs do.”
And here’s the kicker:
“Trump's EPA has tried to justify the move by citing a privately funded study that claimed the trucks did not cause more pollution, but even the university that conducted the research has now cast doubt on the findings.”
Speaking of ripping families apart at the border, The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that “Trump nominated Ronald W. Mortensen, a fellow with the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), for Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.”
This is a pattern. Julissa Arce reported for Crooked this week that “Trump has stacked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the State Department with former staff and leadership from FAIR, [another SPLC-designated hate group,] and CIS mostly in positions that do not require congressional confirmation. In April, the administration tapped Julie Kirchner, the former executive director of FAIR to advise the acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).”
Buzzfeed’s Adolfo Flores offers one story among thousands about how this ugly dynamic impacts real people. “A Salvadoran mother who applied for asylum as part of a caravan of Central Americans who traversed Mexico for the United States this spring has had her two sons removed from her custody and placed in the care of the federal government in New York,” he writes. “Officials offered no explanation for removing the children." We can’t stress enough that this woman entered the country legally, in order to request asylum, as is her right under US and international law.
Three more from the Only the Best People File…
“The White House official who will shape a large part of the administration's drug price plan worked on many of the same issues as an industry lobbyist, raising questions about whether he violated President Donald Trump's ethics rules,” reports Politico’s David Pitman. “Joe Grogan — who has sweeping authority over drug pricing, entitlement programs and other aspects of federal health policy at the Office of Management and Budget — didn't obtain a waiver from a directive Trump issued during his first week in office that imposed a two-year cooling-off period between lobbying and regulating on the same ‘specific issue area.’" He violated Trump's own "ethics rules," which, wow, must be a pretty tough thing to do.
War-mongering Islamophobic wingnut John Bolton “is remaking the National Security Council in his image,” reports Eric Levitz at NYMag. This week, he installed “Islamophobic wingnut…[and] former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz as his chief of staff.” At the link, Levitz offers a rundown of this guy’s long, kooky background.
"Fleitz and CSP have claimed that major American Muslim organizations and mosques are secretly working to advance a… https://t.co/Khz6oRb7p2— Matt Duss (@Matt Duss)1527769205.0
Ben Carson has hired Al Costa Jr. — the son of convicted medical fraudster and Carson’s ex-business partner Al Cost… https://t.co/ZUWL7qyMYw— Glenn Thrush (@Glenn Thrush)1527612426.0
“Step by methodical step, the Trump administration is remaking government policy on reproductive health — moving to limit access to birth control and abortion and bolstering abstinence-only sex education,” according to the AP.
What makes this so maddening is that Trump used to be “very pro-choice” – those are his words -- and only reversed himself to pander to the Evangelical right.
“Most of the changes involve rules and regulations under the administration’s direct control, such as a proposal to forbid federally funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions and separately allowing more employers who cite moral or religious reasons to opt out of no-cost birth control for women workers. Trump also is appointing numerous new federal judges endorsed by anti-abortion groups.”
In summary, everything is horrible. But that’s no reason not to Be Best until the next edition of What Fresh Hell?
ICYMI, we’ll leave you with the “buff cat” that stormed the internet this week…