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.
One of Donald Trump’s great gifts is an instinct for surrounding himself with people who are so sleazy and lacking in credibility that when they’re indicted for some scam or flip on him and reveal his abuses of power they’re easy to discredit.
This week, for example, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham described Lev Parnas, the grifty GOP operative who released a tranche of damning documents this week, as “a man who is under indictment and who’s actually out on bail. This is a man who owns a company called Fraud Inc. We’re not too concerned about [his revelations].” All of that is true, but Parnas worked closely with Trump’s personal attorney to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, says he asked Trump to remove the US ambassador and has released dozens of photos of himself mugging with Trump, both of his sons, Mike Pence and a who’s-who of Republican bigwigs close to White House.
Telling detail of the Lev Parnas/Robert Hyde/Anthony de Caluwe triangle: Each of them tells reporters he’d been warned the other guy was a scumbag.
De Caluwe was warned about Hyde, Hyde was cautioned about Parnas, and Parnas was told to avoid Hyde.
And yet here we are.
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) January 18, 2020
As soon as Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time lawyer and business partner, turned on his former boss he became “a felon, a disbarred lawyer and a convicted perjurer who lied to both Congress and the Special Counsel in a ‘deliberate and premeditated’ fashion,” according to campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.
“The Trump campaign is distancing itself from one of its highest-profile supporters, David Bossie, two days after the president’s longtime friend was accused of using his political group to scam elderly Republican voters for his own financial gain,” reported Politico last year.
Despite visiting the White House 13 times and being described in media reports as “a lobbyist known for his ties to the inner circle of President Donald Trump,” the White House claimed that nobody in the building knew George Nader after he cooperated with the Mueller probe. He was later arrested on child porn charges.
When Trump announced that he was tapping George Papadopoulos as a foreign policy advisor, he called the unheralded and inexperienced “energy consultant” an “excellent guy,” but when Papadopoulos was busted for lying to the FBI and then cooperated in the Mueller probe, he became “just a coffee boy.”
After Sam Nunberg blasted the White House in a series of bizarre (and perhaps drunken) press hits, then-White House spox Sarah Huckabee Jones described him as someone who “hasn’t worked at the White House” and didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Matt Whitaker—I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” Trump said of the buffoonish Fox News legal analyst he’d appointed Acting Attorney General when the media revealed that Whitaker had been involved in a series of fraudulent endeavors.
And after Omarosa Manigault Newman, whom Trump had once gushed over as “a wonderful woman” who was “amazing” and “such a fine person,” wrote a tell-all book about her experience in the White House, Trump called her “a crazed, crying lowlife” who is “vicious, but not smart.”
This is, of course, only a partial list.
Speaking of the best people…
“A small number of people at a few federal agencies have vast power over the protection of American air and water,” reports The New York Times. “Under the Trump administration, the people appointed to those positions overwhelmingly used to work in the fossil fuel, chemical and agriculture industries. During their time in government they have been responsible for loosening or undoing nearly 100 environmental protections from pollution and pesticides, as well as weakening preservations of natural resources and efforts to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.”
In related news, “a lobbyist turned senior Agriculture Department official repeatedly shared information with her former industry on policy and enforcement, according to ProPublica. Before being tapped by Trump to serve as a senior Agriculture Department official, Rebeckah Adcock “was the chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry’s trade group.”
Adcock had helped her former industry colleagues in a variety of ways. At Dow’s request, for example, she had arranged a meeting between a top company official and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue….
Before the May 2017 meeting, a Dow lobbyist emailed Adcock: “Do you know who will staff the secretary?”
Adcock wrote back, playfully, “Yes and u do too.”
“Roger,” the lobbyist, Hunt Shipman, replied. Then he joked about the potential conflict of a public servant helping former colleagues: “Maybe you can have a chair on both sides of the table…maybe you can staff them both? :)”
Art of the deal…
1. Trump applied for trademarks in Argentina
2. The Trump administration rescinded tariffs on Argentina
3. Trump got the trademarks
4. The Trump administration replaced the tariffs https://t.co/Xd6wBD714Q
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) January 12, 2020
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) want to know whether any Mar-a-Lago members had advanced knowledge that the Trump administration would kill a top Iranian general — and whether they used that knowledge to game the stock market.
A couple of stories about trying to manage under an unhinged president*…
Politico reports that Intelligence officials are trying to convince Congress to skip the public portion of an annual threat report after last year’s presentation “provoked an angry outburst from President Donald Trump.”
At the last such threats briefing a year ago, the chiefs presented findings that diverged from the president’s statements on the longevity of Islamic State terror group, as well as Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. He blistered them on Twitter the following day, labeling them “passive” and “naive” while writing that “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
This week, the regime also “abruptly canceled four classified congressional briefings related to the ongoing Iran crisis, in some cases providing little or no explanation for doing so,” according to CNN. The briefings were scheduled to be conducted by officials from the State Department, the FBI and the Pentagon.
President Trump wanted to strike down a law that prohibits companies from bribing foreign officials, calling the ban “so unfair” to American companies, two Washington Post reporters recount in a new book.
In the spring of 2017, Mr. Trump was at a briefing with Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, and aides in the Oval Office. At the mention of a bribery allegation, Mr. Trump “perked up” and told Mr. Tillerson that he wanted his help in scrapping the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the authors write.
That law, enacted in 1977 and heavily enforced since around 2005, prohibits companies that operate in the United States from bribing foreign officials to obtain or retain business. It has become a major factor in corporate decision-making about operations abroad.
Mr. Trump said that it was “just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas…”
Denver this week became the national target of the Trump administration’s escalated crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement subpoenaed information on four foreign nationals wanted for deportation.
ICE usually sends the administrative subpoenas to employers or landlords as they track down immigrants who are in the country illegally. The agency confirmed to The Associated Press, which first reported the Denver subpoenas, that it was the first time they had been directed to a law enforcement agency. ICE indicated that it could expand the unusual practice to other cities.
According to The Denver Post, one city officials said, “This is not a legal document. It’s not signed by a judge.”
The story that we believe should have been plastered all over the front pages this week…
A new study shows that the oceans are warming at the same rate as if FIVE Hiroshima bombs were dropped in EVERY second.https://t.co/nhUbzDbqjR
— James Hohmann (@jameshohmann) January 13, 2020
And we’ll leave you with two pieces of good news.
Texas Tribune: “A federal judge temporarily blocked a Trump administration policy that would have allowed governors, like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and other local leaders to prevent refugees from resettling in those areas.”
Daily Kos: “Scotland to Reach 100% Renewable Energy This Year.”