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.
These are some scary times. Models suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to overwhelm our fragile healthcare system and could lead to millions of deaths in the US alone. All signs point to a looming depression the likes of which we haven’t seen in nearly a century. There’s a “locust crisis” underway that “has now reached 10 countries” and “could carry on to endanger millions more people.” The planet is cooking, with a surge of “extreme weather events.” There are kids in cages. We’re facing the worst global refugee crisis since World War Two. Crackpot authoritarianism is on the rise around the world.
And there isn’t even a minimally competent skipper manning the helm as we careen through some extremely turbulent waters.
Intel reports from January and February — along with aides — warned about a pandemic. On the warnings Trump received about what was coming and why he was skeptical, w/@shaneharris, @gregpmiller, @nakashimae, @yabutaleb7: https://t.co/BWxDmTIiCh
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 21, 2020
It’s highly appropriate to be a bit freaked out right now. If you aren’t experiencing some serious stress under the circumstances, then you must not be paying attention.
As you cope with the anxiety—by binge-eating or obsessively cleaning or deciding right after breakfast that it’s cocktail hour somewhere on the planet—consider that this is how many consumers of Fox News and other conservative media outlets are made to feel all the time, especially when a moderate Democrat occupies the Oval Office.
Even when Republicans are in power, they’re constantly told that the all-powerful left is persecuting Christians and is intent on banning Christmas. Every institution is perpetually stacked against them–the media and the academy and scientists and tech giants all loath conservatives and constantly conspire to undermine them. They are constantly bombarded with messages that minorities are replacing them and that their kids will be impoverished by debt or molested by trans people in public restrooms or murdered by “illegals.” They fear that globalists are stealthily undermining America’s sovereignty while Antifa thugs run amok in our streets brutally silencing anyone with a right-of-center worldview. In their world, American cities are rife with crime and caravans loaded with refugees are invading and attempting to “reconquer” vast swaths of the country.
Then, if a center-left Harvard legal scholar is elected president, they turn that fearmongering up to 11. He must be a Kenyan crypto-Commie Muslim interloper who is going to take away your guns, kill your grandmother and then Jade Helm you into a FEMA camp. It must be terrifying.
And the conservative press maintains that level of fear and anxiety among a broad swath of “red” America just to keep the Republican base fired up. It’s pretty cruel when you think about it.
Speaking of cruelty…
WH was set to strip 700,000 Americans from food stamps
A Federal Court blocked them, calling it cruel during this Pandemic
WH is appealing the court’s block b/c apparently forcing poor Americans to go hungry is 45’s top priority
The cruelty is the pointhttps://t.co/couZw63HgX
— Qasim Rashid for Congress (@QasimRashid) March 20, 2020
Insane. Absolute fucking insanity. ICE is sabotaging community efforts to flatten the curve. It is exacerbating the spread of COVID-19. And it is going to get people killed. https://t.co/3WDfEMKqPt https://t.co/0bRESdR1Qp
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) March 17, 2020
“The White House, under the guise of its coronavirus response, is quietly advancing policies that President Trump has long advocated, from tougher border controls to an assault on organized labor to the stonewalling of congressional oversight,” reported The Washington Post. “And across the government, departments have been citing the ‘whole of government’ response to the pandemic as they push through the same policies they sought before the crisis.”
Looks like quite a few members of Congress, from both parties, sold stocks after being briefed on the threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. And at least one bought stocks that look likely to appreciate as a result of the pandemic.
Of course, only the members of one of those parties was telling the public that the media were hyping a minor public health threat to hurt Donald Trump.
According to The Daily Beast, White House Trade Advisor and notorious China hawk Peter Navarro is using the pandemic to advance his own nativist agenda.
His role, as described to The Daily Beast by several officials, has been aggressive enough to prompt serious pushback from other senior Trump officials, who are worried that Trump will be won over by the Buy American pitch, which will, in turn, have damaging consequences during the nation’s worst public-health and economic crises in years.
The order being pushed by Navarro, a draft of which was obtained by The Daily Beast, lays out a slew of policies that would ultimately curb the importing of foreign goods and create conditions that would allow for the increased production of American medicines, raw materials, and vaccines.
Food shortages haven’t been a serious problem yet but the White House is on it…
U.S. fruit and vegetable producers are bracing for dramatic disruptions to their labor force after the U.S. government said it was suspending visa interviews in Mexico to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. [Reuters]
The acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center was removed Wednesday in what insiders fear is a purge by the Trump administration of career professionals at an organization set up after 9/11 to protect the nation from further attacks, according to two former U.S. officials.
In somewhat related news, “the federal personnel director quit with no notice Tuesday after five months on the job, leaving the agency that oversees workplace policy for 2.1 million civil servants with no leader amid the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
With all eyes focused elsewhere, Donald Trump said this week that he’s “strongly considering” pardoning former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
And his Justice Department is dropping the charges Robert Mueller brought against “a Russian company charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”
Meanwhile, the grifting continues apace.
“Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, the state’s top legal officer, contracted with President Donald Trump’s Miami golf resort to host a crime prevention conference, despite the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against his accepting money from a state.” https://t.co/MOulFZutqy
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 18, 2020
Donors picked up the tab for another lavish party at a Trump property, this one for Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle at Mar-a-Lago.
Brendan Fischer, an official at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, called the party “an illustration of the blurred lines between Trump’s presidency, his campaign, and his family’s personal and financial interests.”
At the very least, he said, the party created the appearance of supporters of the president currying favor with his family by steering money into his private business, which he continues to profit from.
“This may not be illegal, but it is incredibly unethical,” he said. [NYTimes]
And CNN reported that “when Republican lawmakers this week abruptly canceled a plan to subpoena a former Ukrainian official in their investigations into the energy firm that hired former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, they said it was to allow more time for senators to receive additional briefings.”
But a Ukrainian magazine editor has told CNN that the target of the subpoena, Andrii Telizhenko, once offered him money to lobby US senators on behalf of pro-Russian media outlets.A former Ukrainian diplomat, Telizhenko is an ally of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and has been an enthusiastic proponent of the debunked theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US elections. Telizhenko has also backed Republican claims that Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, shut down an investigation into the Ukrainian gas company Burisma when his son, Hunter, served on its board. Biden has consistently denied any wrongdoing.The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee called off a vote to subpoena Telizhenko earlier this week, amid accusations from Democrats that the investigation was calculated to damage Biden’s presidential bid.