It’s not just Putin -- Trump is Mitch McConnell’s puppet too
Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell

The 39 percent of Americans who still approve of Donald Trump’s job in office are at a minimum OK with his rank bigotry, even if they aren’t actually rank bigots, but of course they tell themselves and the world a very different story. In their eyes, Trump may be erratic and kind of offensive, and he may spend too much time blathering about his enemies on Twitter for their taste, but they're convinced that despite the drama, he's delivered on his promises.

This would be the oddest belief Trump supporters embrace if not for the Pizzagate/ QAnon conspiracy nonsense. Trump’s supposedly “booming economy” is obviously a continuation of Obama’s. He got some deep tax cuts through Congress, but he'd promised voters that they’d benefit the middle class and hurt rich guys like himself and the GOP’s tax scam did the opposite. He renegotiated NAFTA, which he had called the “worst deal in history,” but his new NAFTA is just the old NAFTA with a fake Groucho mustache. He's made immigrants’ lives Hell, including the Dreamers’, which was an implied promise. But on the campaign trail, he explicitly vowed to strong-arm Mexico into sending a one-time payment of $5-10 billion dollars for a border wall within his first three days in office, and two years later he shut down the government in an attempt to extort that money from US taxpayers.

But those are just some of his shattered promises on specific policies. His overarching pitch to MAGA Nation was that he would clean up Washington and be a different kind of President. He wouldn’t kowtow to “political correctness," but he did promise to provide everyone with excellent healthcare. He swore that as a rich business guy, he would drain the swamp and give the little guy the same representation in Washington as the fat cats enjoyed. He said he’d make great deals for this country. He said he would be the last guy to get taken or outplayed by an adversary. This was his central promise to voters: Take a risk on me, and I alone will make everything right.

We don’t need to tell regular readers of This Fresh Hell that immediately upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with a mix of GOP establishment types, corporate lobbyists and crooks, flaunted ethics rules and hamstrung government watchdogs and since then has basically presided over a kleptocracy. He didn’t promise to drain the swamp into his cronies’ offshore tax havens, but that’s where we are.

But according to Matthew Glassman, an expert on government affairs at Georgetown University, Trump’s betrayal of his base runs much deeper than most of us realized. While “many observers have concluded that Mr. Trump dominates the Republican Party, and his loyal base holds congressional Republicans tautly in line,” wrote Grossman in The Washington Post, the truth is that Congressional Republicans have played Trump like a fiddle.

Throughout the first two years of the Trump presidency, Republican leaders in Congress skillfully used a variety of tactics to minimize the president’s influence and maximize their own control over public policy.

Critically, congressional Republicans have adopted strategies that make the public — and more important, his conservative base — think Mr. Trump is in command. To casual followers of political news, the visible evidence from congressional votes and news releases suggests a powerful president leading a loyal congressional party. In reality, Republican legislators have hidden their influence, purposefully disguising a weak president with little clout on Capitol Hill while also preserving party unity.

And of course they've also convinced the weak "president" that he's "in command."

Trump’s overarching promise was that he'd be a savvy negotiator and a tough guy who wouldn’t get rolled by foreigners, politically correct liberals or the GOP establishment. The reality is that he’s got a huge ego and doesn’t know what he’s doing, and that's made him an easy mark. He's been artfully manipulated by the Russians, Kim Jong Un, the Saudis, the Israelis and the Turks, he was totally played by the Republican establishment and he looked like a complete doofus as Nancy Pelosi ran circles around him. The puppet has many masters holding the strings.

And with that, let’s move onto this week’s roundup…


In the middle of the shutdown, Trump’s businesses appear to have fired their undocumented workers.

These weren't all just seasonal workers, according to WaPo

They had spent years on the staff of Donald Trump’s golf club, winning employee-of-the-month awards and receiving glowing letters of recommendation. Some were trusted enough to hold the keys to Eric Trump’s weekend home.

After the WaPo report, the NYT followed up with a similar story at a different Trump property.

Meanwhile, “a Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump’s son Eric is once again seeking permission to hire foreign guest workers — this time, 23 of them,” according to Buzzfeed News.


Is Trump an asset, or is he just trolling us? It's not a question one should have to ask about the President.

Vox: “Trump met Putin without staff or note takers present — again


If you caught Trump’s rambling press conference announcing that he was caving on the shutdown, you may have noticed some odd claims about human traffickers driving fast cars filled with women bound up in blue duct tape across the border.

Looks like the President of the United States of America got that nonsense from the 2015 flick Sicario.


Meanwhile, this:


Somewhat related news…

Here’s that Texas Tribune story. Four days after it was published, the Associated Press reported that “officials with the Texas secretary of state’s office began calling county election chiefs… to warn about problems with its recent report questioning the citizenship of tens of thousands of registered voters, the latest example of a state backpedaling after raising alarms about potential widespread election fraud.”

The Waco Tribune reported that the Texas Secretary of State’s Office gave local election officials a list of 366 possible non-citizens on their voter rolls and all 366 turned out to be eligible US citizens.




File this one under nothing even matters anymore…

“A congressional aide who was key in crafting the controversial Republican House Intelligence Committee memo that accused FBI and Justice Department officials of abusing their surveillance authority is set to join the National Security Council.”

According to CNN, wingnut conspiracy theorist Kashyap Patel is a “hard-charging aide [who] will help craft policy involving the United States' relationship with the United Nations and other international organizations.” Yeah, we’re doomed.


Patel will be working under John Bolton, who reportedly played a key role in the Trump regime’s announcement last week that the US is pulling out of  the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, “ending a cornerstone Cold War agreement and raising fears of a new nuclear arms race in Europe and Asia,” according to WaPo.

Ploughshares Fund president Joseph Cirincione wrote this week that “John Bolton relishes in targeting nuclear arms treaties. He is very good at it… [and] his list of victims goes back decades.”


We’re not sure if disgraced former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was the griftiest member of Trump cabinet, or if that honor should go to disgraced former EPA head Scott Pruitt or soon-to-be-disgraced current Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

But thanks to a rather odd report by WaPo’s Darryl Fears, Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin, we do know that Zinke seems to have gone a bit batty under the glare of the media spotlight.

Before his rocky tenure as Secretary of the Interior came to a close in December, Ryan Zinke was a man on edge.

He was worried about liberal protesters, who had started badgering Trump officials and other conservatives in public places around Washington. He was suspicious of his anti-Trump neighbors. And he was furious with relentless news coverage of the proliferating inquiries into his management and behavior.

All of which helps to explain the strange night of Nov. 5, when Zinke called U.S. Park Police about a minor disagreement over parking outside his Capitol Hill home.

The short version is that Zinke had some bros over to watch a football game, one of whom was some unnamed big-wig whose bodyguard/ driver parked his SUV outside. He took up multiple spaces, as the bodyguard/ drivers of rich assholes are wont to do, the neighbors griped, and Zinke called the cops and concocted some story about a reporter becoming aggressive outside his home.

In addition to everything else, they are just really weird people.



“The Trump administration will not set a drinking water limit for two toxic chemicals that are contaminating millions of Americans' tap water,” according to Politico.


The story that probably should have dominated the news this week, via The Guardian: “Glaciers in western North America, excluding Alaska, are melting four times faster than in the previous decade, with changes in the jet stream exacerbating the longer-term effects of climate change, according to a new study.”

While we are freezing our respective asses off, Australia is burning. “This is weather in the age of extremes. It comes on top of multiple extremes, all kinds, in all kinds of places,” wrote Somini Sengupta for The Times this week.


In good news this week, Americans from across the political spectrum came together in a rare moment of unity to tell former Starbucks CEO and current egomaniac Howard Schultz to fuck right off.

Colorado came one step closer to joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact this week. It would effectively sideline the Electoral College and give the presidency to the winner of the popular vote if it is passed by enough states. Details here.

And 100 girls were inducted into the Boy Scouts this week for the first time in the organization’s history. Via: ABC.