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.
The one silver-lining of the Trump era is that America faces an authoritarian movement that is as inept as it is malign. Led by a raging id who acts on impulse and is incapable of learning from his many screw-ups, it has been far less effective in corrupting out institutions than it might have been with a more disciplined Commander-in-Chief.
This week began with a Federalist Society-approved Chief Justice killing the regime’s effort to roll back protections for undocumented immigrants brought here as children because Team Trump couldn’t be bothered to follow the process required under the law. That was the same reason the courts put the kibosh on adding a question about citizenship to the US Census.
The White House’s attempt to censor former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book is backfiring. The Washington Post reported that the official who was first tasked with reviewing the manuscript for classified information concluded that it contained none but “she was overruled by officials with closer ties to Trump — and, in one case, thanks to an official with a history of politically charged actions benefiting Trump.” A federal judge turned down the regime’s request for an injunction to stop publication of the book, which will now benefit from the Streisand Effect.
After suffering a major drop in the polls as a result of ordering peaceful protesters to be attacked outside the White House, Trump threatened violence against any protesters who dare to show up for his
Nuremberg Tulsa rally this weekend.
And this was the “good fight” in which Trump praised “very fine people” on both sides of the Charlottesville “unite the right” riot that ended in the murder of Heather Heyer–and which coincided with the worst polling of his presidency:
The president digging into “heritage” as he did in 2017 after Charlottesville, telling his advisers it was a good fight for him. https://t.co/kawSjNxrFp
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 10, 2020
And the week culminated in Attorney General Bill Barr announcing that the powerful US Attorney of SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, who was hand-picked by Trump but then got on his bad side by investigating members of Trump’s inner circle, had resigned only to see Berman refuse to step down. This is striking not only for its nakedly fascistic nature, but also because Trump didn’t learn that he can’t fire his way out of criminal investigations from the three years of probes that followed his dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey.
Recall a few wks ago, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas abruptly “resigned,” too.
He was leading an investigation into Walmart’s opioid dispensing, which Trump DOJ appointees quashed.
AG Barr has been wiping out Trump “enemies.” https://t.co/qQ90OKVUav
— Jesse Eisinger (@eisingerj) June 20, 2020
We are fortunate that our authoritarians are incompetent crackpots, but this reality should also serve as a warning. If the country manages to rid itself of Trump in November, we have to be mindful of a what kind of damage a disciplined and worldly neo-fascist might accomplish in the future.
This is going to be tough to defend in court…
“The Trump administration Friday moved forward with a rule that rolls back health care protections for transgender people, even as the Supreme Court barred sex discrimination against LGBT individuals on the job.” [AP]
In related news, “the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest Friday in the lawsuit filed against Idaho after Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law that would ban transgender women from participating in female sports.”
This is all about trying to reverse Trump’s recent drop in support among white Evangelicals.
The European Union blasted Trump’s threat to levy sanctions against members of the International Criminal Court for investigating war crimes in Afghanistan. “Sanctions against those involved in the work of the ICC, its staff and their families as well as persons associated with the ICC are unacceptable and unprecedented in scope and content,” the body said in a statement.
Also, per the AP:
European countries are slamming the Trump administration’s withdrawal from negotiations over a major tax on big tech companies.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, speaking on France Inter, called it a “provocation” and said France will still implement the tax regardless of the U.S. change of heart.
Le Maire was referring to a letter in which U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the finance ministers of France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom that he was suspending talks on the tax.
“This letter is a provocation. It is a provocation against all the partners at the OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) when we were centimeters away from a deal on the taxation of digital giants,” Le Maire said.
Over 90 scientists signed onto a letter opposing Trump’s nominee to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nancy Beck, saying she “has used her career to protect the world’s largest corporate chemical manufacturers and polluters by weakening or blocking health protections for consumers, workers, and families.” [NRDC]
Relatedly, “the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it will not regulate or limit a toxic chemical compound linked to infant brain damage in drinking water,” according to Axios.
They say that grifters make easy marks.
According to Propublica, a “a first-time federal contractor with a sketchy owner” sold the Trump regime $7 million worth of test-tubes to track the spread of Covid-19, but delivered “unusable mini soda bottles” that “don’t even fit the racks used to analyze samples” and “may be contaminated anyway.”
The New York Times reports that “the Food and Drug Administration’s abrupt decision this week to revoke an emergency waiver for two malaria drugs promoted by President Trump as potential ‘game changers’ against the coronavirus has left 66 million doses stranded in the federal stockpile — and officials do not yet know what they will do with them.”
Wow. WH tells CDC not to provide public-health information to news providers that have pissed Trump off.
1) Is this common practice? Time to FOIA every federal agency.
2) Did they follow orders? https://t.co/WBXt2oJgPb
— Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@froomkin) June 14, 2020
The Transportation Security Administration withheld N95 masks from staff and exhibited “gross mismanagement” in its response to the coronavirus crisis – leaving employees and travelers vulnerable during the most urgent days of the pandemic, a senior TSA official alleges in a new whistleblower complaint.
On Thursday evening, the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that handles whistleblower complaints, said it had found “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” in the complaint and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to open an investigation.
TSA Federal Security Director Jay Brainard is an official in charge of transportation security in the state of Kansas and has been with the agency for almost 20 years.
He told NPR that the leadership of his agency failed to protect its staff from the pandemic, and as a result, allowed TSA employees to be “a significant carrier” for the spread of the coronavirus to airport travelers.
We’ll leave you with some good news this week. In addition to the Supreme Court finding that discriminating based on sexual preference violates the Constitution and upholding DACA, a federal judge in California found that Education Secretary Betsy Devos could not withhold emergency student aid to DREAMers. This follows a similar decision by another judge in Washington State. Forbes has the details.