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.
Just as many political analysts never really internalized the disconnect between Trump’s approval rating and the state of the economy before it crashed, they don’t appear to understand that a modest backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement among white people isn’t sending them into Trump’s arms. At least not so far.
As I’ve written in the past, Trump’s brand is chaos–his supporters actually like that he stirs shit up–and that’s a big reason why he’s struggling to gain traction with his law and order message. Unlike the staid, boring Richard Nixon, Trump is the last person people would see as a steadying rock in a sea of supposed turmoil.
But it may also be that he’s no better positioned to sell himself as a candidate who will uphold the law than he is a guy who will provide stability and order. He heads a lawless regime that isn’t trying to hide it. In fact, Trump is reveling in it. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Trump’s aides said he enjoyed the frustration and anger he caused by holding a political event on the South Lawn of the White House, shattering conventional norms and raising questions about ethics law violations. He relished the fact that no one could do anything to stop him,” according to the report.
The Times is, in its typical fashion, under-selling the degree of criminality involved. While Donald Trump and Mike Pence are exempt from a 1939 anti-corruption law that bars federal employees from using taxpayer resources for partisan politics, The Washington Post reports that throughout the federal government, officials “have faced warning letters, reprimands, suspensions without pay and, in extreme cases, been fired and debarred from returning to government” for far less blatant violations of the law than what Trump forced dozens of his own people to commit.
This is all the predictable result of House Democrats declining to pursue impeachment when Special Counsel Robert Mueller found almost a dozen clear-cut acts of obstruction justice, and Senate Republicans acquitting him when Democrats did impeach him for just as clear-cut attempts to bribe a foreign government to intervene in the 2020 election.
The problem is compounded by a political press that is often eager to portray things as normal.
This paragraph is in Politico Playbook today pic.twitter.com/IBF4JDvNAy
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) August 26, 2020
So we have a system that makes it extraordinarily difficult for Congress to hold the executive accountable, and a Fourth Estate that doesn’t see that as its proper function.
Impunity always breeds more crime, and Trump knows that he’s effectively above the law for the duration of his presidency. And he’s loving it,
Speaking of lawlessness…
We’re now directly in “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it” territory. https://t.co/19Bvj7MP6i
— Adam Bonin (@adambonin) August 24, 2020
WaPo: “Trump has brought the Trump Organization a stream of private revenue from federal agencies and GOP campaign groups. Federal spending records show that taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. At least $570,000 came as a result of the president’s travel, according to a Post analysis.”
All that travel–and mingling with people who believe wearing a mask is tyranny–is getting Secret Service agents sick in droves.
Speaking of corruption–but the legal kind, probably–Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former Chief of Staff and current Envoy to Northern Ireland, is starting a hedge fund that will focus on “buying stock in banks and other financial firms based on his knowledge of financial regulation,” according to Politico. If he relies on any non-public information, that would of course be a crime.
We’ve covered a lot of Trump appointees who are really out there, but a former official in charge of diplomatic protocol, Sean Lawler, may take the cake.
Officials described an environment of yelling, cursing, “overconsuming alcohol,” and intimidating and abusive behavior, according to the report, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
“Mr. Lawler had an explosive personality and regularly would throw papers and binders,” the report said of his tenure from December 2017 to July 2019. “Several employees reported that he would crack a horse whip in the office and that, given his general demeanor and conduct, these actions placed them in fear of physical harm.”
A possible October Surprise: William Barr’s Department of Justice announced that it may launch an investigation–that in itself is unusual–into Democratic Governors’ management of Covid-19 outbreaks in state-run veterans’ homes, possibly leading to charges.
They are not considering a similar investigation into Republican governors who have dealt with similar problems in their facilities, according to The Huffington Post.
This policy would be a disaster but it’s so bad that very few businesses will even participate: “The IRS issued long-awaited guidance on President Donald Trump’s payroll tax deferral Friday night. And it appears to put the onus on employers to collect any taxes due after the holiday ends.” [CNBC]
According to Politico, “The House Foreign Affairs Committee is launching contempt proceedings against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for what it says is his repeated refusal to cooperate with the committee’s investigations.”
Finally, we’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that few responsible hunters want to kill bear and wolf cubs in their dens. It depletes their stocks for future generations, and they don’t provide much meat or fur.
But we guess Trump is looking out for sadists and other kinds of irresponsible hunters by rolling back an Obama rule against shooting these young animals. More at Axios.
Democrats reveal huge fundraising hauls in Senate races after RBG’s death
Small donor contributions to Democratic Senate campaigns have skyrocketed after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"From Alaska to Maine to the Carolinas, Democratic strategists working on Senate campaigns described a spontaneous outpouring of donations the likes of which they had never seen, allowing Democrats the financial freedom to broaden the map of pickup opportunities, or press their financial advantage in top battlegrounds already saturated with advertising," The New York Times reported Monday.
Bank account used for Trump’s hush money payments got cash linked to Russian oligarch: Andrew Weissmann
The latest bombshell book on the Trump administration reveals new details on the special counsel investigation into the president's relationship with Moscow.
"The team led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, failed to do everything it could to determine what happened in the 2016 election, shying away from steps like subpoenaing President Trump and scrutinizing his finances out of fear he would fire them, one of Mr. Mueller’s top lieutenants argued in the first insider account of the inquiry," The New York Times reported Monday.
Jeffrey Toobin warns Republicans in NC and WI could declare Trump the winner — regardless of the vote
On CNN Monday, chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin warned of a possible scenario in which close states with right-wing legislatures could find a pretext to overturn the election and hand their electoral votes to President Donald Trump.
"What is so remarkable is how many different tentacles there are," said Toobin. "Bush v. Gore was just about Florida. But there are now literally 200 lawsuits pending around the country about various issues relating to voting."
"Let me just give you one example of the issues that are out there," said Toobin. "Most people don't know this, but under the Constitution, a state legislature can decide to award the electoral votes to the candidate of its choice, regardless of the voters. So if you have contested elections in North Carolina, in Wisconsin, states with active and very conservative Republican majorities, they can say, you know, this election is too chaotic, we are awarding our electoral votes to Donald Trump. That is a possibility that exists. And people need to start focusing on it now, because it is a real possibility."