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.
It’s easy to forget just how unpopular Donald Trump has been for all but the first week of his presidency, in part because media outlets are drawn to stories about Trump supporters in Trump country continuing to express their love and admiration for Trump. The president with the closest track-record in the modern polling era was Gerald Ford, and while Trump’s net approval rating has been in positive territory for just 15 days, Ford was above water for about half of his three years in office. Trump’s “strong disapproval” numbers are consistently twice his “strong approval” rate. And even more importantly, since winning the White House, Trump’s net approval has dropped by 20 points in Ohio, 17 points in Pennsylvania, 18 points in Wisconsin and 19 points in Michigan.
Incumbency has its advantages, but it’s hard to imagine such a widely loathed character winning re-election in a free and fair contest. Trump’s campaign knows this. So do Republicans in control of red states and both foreign and domestic ratfuckers. It will be neither entirely free nor anything approaching fair, and the results will come down to whether the disgust held by a majority of the public will be enough motivation to overcome the voter suppression and dirty campaigning to come.
It should go without saying that Trump and his allies will ratchet up their appeals to white racial grievance and continue to claim that they’re victims of a broad array of crackpot conspiracy theories. But this week, WaPo’s Paul Waldman warned of another worrisome prospect: That Trump will demand that his Justice Department launch noisy investigations of his political opponents for various “crimes” promoted by Breitbart and Fox News, and that
Coverup Attorney General William Barr will be all too happy to accommodate him.
Trump and his allies are well aware of the role that former FBI director James Comey played in helping Trump eke out a win in 2016 by announcing 11 days before the vote that his agency was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server. As Nate Silver wrote at FiveThirtyEight, within a day of Comey's announcement, "Google searches for ‘Clinton FBI’ had increased 50-fold and searches for ‘Clinton email’ almost tenfold.”
Clinton’s standing in the polls fell sharply. She’d led Trump by 5.9 percentage points in FiveThirtyEight’s popular vote projection at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 28. A week later — after polls had time to fully reflect the letter — her lead had declined to 2.9 percentage points. That is to say, there was a shift of about 3 percentage points against Clinton. And it was an especially pernicious shift for Clinton because (at least according to the FiveThirtyEight model) Clinton was underperforming in swing states as compared to the country overall. In the average swing state, Clinton’s lead declined from 4.5 percentage points at the start of Oct. 28 to just 1.7 percentage points on Nov. 4.
Clinton was already in some trouble, and while she went on to win the popular vote by a margin of three million ballots, Comey delivered enough doubt to push Trump over the top in key swing states.
This election is going to be nasty, because that’s Republicans’ only way of holding on for another term, and Trump has proven that he won’t hesitate to politicize federal law enforcement agencies for partisan purposes. The good news is that 2020 will be another referendum on this "president," and 2018 showed us that when the Democratic coalition organizes and turns out in force, it can overcome Trump's demagoguery, his supporters' belligerence, the bullshit memes and intimidation and long lines at polling places.
Speaking of her emails…
SDNY: More Trump officials in trouble for private email habits. A federal judge scolded Trump DOJ officials for u… https://t.co/uamiw5WGoX— Adam Klasfeld (@Adam Klasfeld)1556739692.0
There have been a half dozen of these stories but we guess it’s OK if you’re a Republican ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Note: EPA is NOT an acronym for Environmental Pollution Agency...
According to The NYT, “after pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental Protection Agency significantly weakened a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by toxic chemicals that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of Americans and that have been commonly used at military bases.”
Wheeler isn’t alone. Former Department of Homeland Security officials are raising the alarm over the lack of transparency in the DHS office charged with preventing acts of domestic terror. One told NBC News that “we do not know yet whether there will be any additional staff or resources committed to this broader mission… Staff and resources are drastically reduced, they have gone from 16 to seven [full-time employees], from $9 million to $0 in contracts." Another “called the new office ‘very half-baked,’ criticizing it for having ‘no transparency on budget or on who will run it.’"
Meanwhile, The Huffington Post ran a chilling story about neo-Nazis and other white supremacists infiltrating the US military.
File this one under What Could Possibly Go Wrong? The AP reports that the Trump regime moved this week “to give oil and gas companies more flexibility in meeting safety requirements imposed after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed nearly a dozen people and was the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history.”
In other regulatory news, the Department of Health and Human Services, which the regime has packed with religious right wackjobs, announced a new rule allowing healthcare providers to refuse services that don’t comport with their religious beliefs. It’s like an Amish bus driver refusing to drive the bus.
In addition to the move's obvious effects on abortion rights and access to contraception, NBC reports that “a number of LGBTQ advocates and health care experts have warned the measure could have a negative impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.”
We’ve mentioned it before: Trump loves undocumented immigrants as long as he’s exploiting them for profit.
The Washington Post reported this week that undocumented employees at his
tacky luxurious country clubs were were routinely told to clock out and then continue laboring for hours with no pay on what managers called “side work.” One former employee at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester told WaPo, “there was a lot of side work.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the allegations.
And perhaps the least surprising news this week is that Trump doesn’t just stiff migrant workers and small contractors.
The Trump campaign has not paid the city of El Paso the more than $470,000 it was billed for the costs stemming fro… https://t.co/T6A5jLjeOh— Kyle Griffin (@Kyle Griffin)1556895601.0
Secret Service guarded the door to the bar at Mar-a-Lago, preventing the bartender from returning while Trump staff… https://t.co/gO3Yw284Ym— Jessica Huseman (@Jessica Huseman)1556723377.0
In response to public outrage over its baby-jails, the Department of Homeland Security employed a private intelligence company to spy on Americans who opposed the regime's family separation policy, according to The Intercept.
LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, a Virginia-based firm, gathered information on more than 600 demonstrations across the country, information that was then shared with DHS and state-level law enforcement agencies.
Tracking Facebook accounts affiliated with the protests and disseminating the intelligence to law enforcement fusion centers nationwide, the operation drilled down on physical locations where demonstrations were planned: a high school in Sebring, Florida; a church in Carbondale, Illinois; the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City; a Denny’s in Carlsbad, California; and “the old Kmart parking lot” in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. All were logged by street address and the time of the planned demonstrations.
We like to leave you with some good news, but that was a tough task this week. A federal judge ruled that Ohio’s gerrymandered congressional map was unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court is set to hear a series of similar cases and as Scott Lemieux put it, “by June John Roberts will have declared that all gerrymanders are constitutional no matter how many voters they disenfranchise because math is witchcraft.”
Maybe next week will bring better tidings.