Donald Trump is the weakest authoritarian strongman ever
President Donald J. Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Maryland, en route Ohio. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have been hot 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.


This week, Donald Trump backed down from his boneheaded threat to impose expansive new tariffs on Mexican goods unless Mexico pays for the wall fixes the US immigration system. This came after our neighbors to the South offered a vague promise to step up efforts to keep refugees from applying for asylum at our border. He then declared victory.

It was a face-saving move after stocks tanked and as even Trump’s sycophants in the conservative media characterized it the equivalent of a massive tax-hike on American households. The derpiness of the idea also led Congressional Republicans to discover that they own spines and by backing down, Combover Ceaușescu avoided an embarrassing revolt from within his own party.

But lobbing intemperate threats only to fold like a cheap suit when people call his bluff is par for the course with Trump. As David Atkins put it at The Washington Monthly, ”none of the ‘deals’ Trump has made on the international stage so far, whether with North Korea or anyone else, have come to fruition. World leaders consistently make promises to Trump when he starts yelling, then count on his short attention span wandering to something else.”

Also this week, our Ugly American-in-Chief visited the UK and France, after which RNC chief Ronna “Don’t Call Me Romney Because It Embarrasses My Family” McDaniel suggested that the 75th anniversary of D-Day should be an occasion to “celebrate” Donald J. Trump. An AP analysis noted that on these international sojourns Trump has repeatedly “proven himself to be an impolitic guest, soaking up pomp and pageantry while leaving behind hosts he scorched despite their best efforts to favor the president with flattery.” Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told the AP that “not only has Trump been ungracious on these trips, he is losing credibility with his behavior… No world leader can trust President Trump because at any moment he may shatter the glass right in front of him; a single whim, or tweet, could upend a deal that had been months in the making. He leaves world leaders wiping their brows and wishing for him to leave.”

Trump’s cult still believes he’s a real tough guy who’s “putting our enemies on notice”-- but his shenanigans are certainly not the actions of a strong leader. Our adversaries—and, with Trump, our allies—flatter him by telling him what he wants to hear and then count on his short attention span to give them some peace when they don’t follow through. And while they certainly wish that he would just leave already, they know he’s just a really bad joke and don’t take his bluster seriously. Vladimir Putin may be as corrupt and Rodrigo Duterte may be equally clownish, but they follow through on their threats and people rightly take their threats very seriously.

We guess none of this should come as a surprise coming from the guy who made “you’re fired!” his TV catchphrase but is too chickenshit to actually fire people in real life.

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

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Speaking of boneheaded tariffs, Bloomberg reported that Trump’s “trade wars have already wiped out all but $100 of the average American household’s” cut from the GOP’s tax scam, “and that’s just the beginning.” If he follows through on his threat to levy new tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports, average families will be in the hole to the tune of $2,200 per year.

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And speaking of Trump's European swing, he took a little detour to his Irish golf resort on the way home, costing tax-payers $3.6 million, a chunk of which ended up in his pockets.

According to The Huffington Post, that brings the total that Americans have spent for POTUS to cheat at play golf to $105.8 million over less than three years.

Also, too…

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In related news also reported by HuffPo, commercial tenants are “fleeing” Trump Tower and Trump’s re-election campaign is making up for some of the revenues his business is losing by forking out $37,500 per month to rent an office space where “no more than four or five” staffers work. This, despite the fact that the campaign and the RNC are leasing thousands of square feet of much cheaper office space in Virginia that are currently going unused.

Anyway, presidenting can be a really sweet grift.

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WaPo’s indefatigable David Farenthold reported this week that “the majority owners of the former Trump Panama hotel — who last year removed President Trump’s name and cut ties with his company — say they have discovered old financial records showing that the Trump Organization was evading Panamanian taxes.” Of course it was.

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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao had to cancel a planned trip to China after State Department personnel raised ethical concerns and the media started asking questions about it (her office said it was just a big coincidence).

Chao tried to bring members of her family to meet with senior Chinese officials. The problem isn't just that it's highly unusual to bring your family to high-level meetings with foreign officials, it's that they happen to “run an American shipping company with deep ties to the economic and political elite in China, where most of the company’s business is centered.” Family members who run the company have also donated millions to her husband Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaigns, according to The New York Times.  

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Speaking of McConnell, The Times reported that he’s acting as a “one-man roadblock” to a “raft of legislation intended to better secure United States election systems.” We wonder why?

Also check out Wired’s story about a new report that details how our election security is “hurting at every level.”

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Let’s talk about priorities for a minute.

CBS reports that “active-duty members of the military deployed near the U.S.-Mexico border have been assigned to spend a month painting a mile-long stretch of barriers to improve their ‘aesthetic appearance.’"

Meanwhile…

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Two transgender Salvadoran migrants (at least one of whom was actually an asylum-seeker) died in US custody near Mexican border this week. CNN has more on that.

And Caitlin Dickson reported for Yahoo News that American doctors offering their services to detainees say that Border Patrol frequently confiscates their medication. One of the physicians she interviewed said, “at the end of the day, as a medical provider, as a physician, we take an oath to first do no harm. And taking somebody’s medications seems like it’s causing harm. Somebody’s going to get hurt, if they haven’t already…Or frankly, someone could die.”

He may not fully appreciate that the cruelty is the point…

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Last week, we mentioned the trove of eye-opening documents that voting rights advocates obtained from the estate of the late Thomas Hofeller, a longtime GOP gerrymandering guru, including one that made it clear that the goal of the citizenship question the Trump regime is trying to include in next year’s Census is to strengthen “non-Hispanic whites’” voting power.

The revelations keep coming, and this week Mark Joseph Stern reported for Slate that the papers contain “evidence that North Carolina Republican lawmakers repeatedly lied to a federal court, and to the public, in a successful effort to delay a special election that threatened their legislative supermajority.”

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Does an ostrich really become invisible when it buries its head in the sand? The Trump regime seems to think so. Or at least they're counting on Republican Pravda Fox News to report it as fact.

HuffPo: “White House officials blocked written testimony from a State Department senior analyst about “potentially catastrophic” climate change because it didn’t “jibe” with the Trump administration’s view.” 

Yahoo News: “Discounting climate change, EPA chief faults the media for the rise of bad environmental news”

WaPo: “How a watchdog whitewashed its oversight of FEMA’s disaster response with ‘feel good’ reports”

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We don’t have much to offer in the way of good news this week, but those items above provide a handy segue into the most important story that didn’t make the front pages this week, via Motherboard: “New Report Suggests ‘High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End’ Starting in 2050.” We've had a good run.