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.
Donald Trump, desperate to recapture the magic that landed him in the White House in 2016, is planning to hold up to three rallies per day in the final days of the campaign. GOP strategists, reports The New York Times, "are deeply concerned" that his closing argument is focused on "entertaining and energizing his existing supporters while eschewing any concerted effort to find new ones — an approach that could cripple other Republicans running for office."
The rest of us should be concerned too, for different reasons. The Washington Post reported that prior to a September 30 Trump rally in Duluth, Minnesota, the campaign "signed an agreement pledging to follow" state public health guidelines, which limit attendance at such events to 250 people. But "emails and other documents obtained by The Washington Post through open-records requests show that...local officials suspected the campaign would violate the agreement, but shied away from enforcing public health orders for fear of provoking a backlash." In the end, 2,500 people crammed into an airport hangar, and 19 Covid-19 cases would later be traced to that and another Minnesota rally held earlier that month.
Trump's return to the campaign trail with a dud of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was followed by a major spike in infections in the days and weeks that followed. And according to an analysis by USA Today, that wasn't an outlier. Looking at county-level infection rates, they found that a number of places where Trump held rallies saw an increase in Covid-19 cases in the two weeks following the events than during the two weeks preceding them. And while Trump's been campaigning as a new wave of Covid is breaking over the country, "even in states where cases were already rising, the spikes in at least four counties that hosted Trump rallies far surpassed their state’s overall growth rates." These data don't capture those who travel to another county to catch Trump's schtick and then go home.
None of this should come as any surprise. Conservatives like comparing these hate-fests with protests for Black Lives, but the key difference is that at protests, most people wear masks and at Trump campaign rallies, only those who are seated behind Trump are required to do so, according to reports. The vast majority are in close quarters without any protection.
It's a Helluva closing argument in a campaign that has been defined primarily by Trump's continual efforts to downplay the severity of the crisis.
In related news, a study by researchers at Columbia University estimated that “if the U.S. had followed Canadian policies and protocols, there might have only been 85,192 U.S. deaths—making more than 132,500 American deaths ‘avoidable.’ If the U.S. response had mirrored that of Germany, the U.S. may have only had 38,457 deaths—leaving 179,260 avoidable deaths.”
“We believe that this was a monumental, lethal screwup by an administration that didn’t want to deal with reality,” the study’s lead author told The Daily Beast.
Senior officials throughout various departments and agencies of the Trump administration tell CNN they are alarmed at White House pressure to grant what would essentially be a no-bid contract to lease the Department of Defense's mid-band spectrum -- premium real estate for the booming and lucrative 5G market -- to Rivada Networks, a company in which prominent Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump have investments.
The pressure campaign to fast track Rivada's "Request for Proposal" (RFP) by using authorities that would preclude a competitive bidding process intensified in September, and has been led by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was acting at Trump's behest....Sources tell CNN that Trump was encouraged to help Rivada by Fox News commentator and veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove, a lobbyist for, and investor in, Rivada.Untold billions are at stake. A government auction of 70 megahertz of spectrum in August went for more than $4.5 billion. The Rivada bid would be for 350 megahertz of spectrum -- five times that amount.
The latest NY Times story on Trump's tax returns focuses on his "charitable contributions." And for Trump, "giving back" was typically scammy: "The vast bulk of his charitable tax deductions, $119.3 million worth, came from simply agreeing not to develop land — in several cases, after he had shelved development plans."
"Three of the agreements involved what are known as conservation easements — a maneuver, popular among wealthy Americans, that typically allows a landowner to keep a property’s title and receive a tax deduction equal to its appraised value." He also donated a piece of land that he purchased for $2 million for a state park, and while it's unclear how much he wrote off for the property, "he reported noncash charitable contributions of $34 million that year." New York Attorney General Tish James' office is investigating the write-offs.
"Trump’s extraordinary directive allowing his administration to weed out career federal employees viewed as disloyal in a second term is the product of a four-year campaign by conservatives working from a little-known West Wing policy shop," according to The Washington Post. "Soon after Trump took office, a young aide hired from the Heritage Foundation with bold ideas for reining in the sprawling bureaucracy of 2.1 million came up with a blueprint. Trump would hold employees accountable, sideline their labor unions and give the president more power to hire and fire them, much like political appointees."
"Donald Trump, who declared 'I don’t make money from China' in Thursday night’s presidential debate, has in fact collected millions of dollars from government-owned entities in China since he took office," reports Forbes.
LA Times: "At least 19 women at a Georgia immigration facility are now alleging that a doctor performed, or pressured them to undergo, 'overly aggressive' or 'medically unnecessary' surgery without their consent, including procedures that affect their ability to have children, according to a new report and other records obtained by The Times."
In a separate report, an LA Times investigation "found that since 2017, at least 265 calls made to police through 911 and nonemergency lines have reported violence and abuse inside California’s four privately run federal detention centers overseen by ICE. Half the calls alleged sex crimes, including rape, sexual assault and abuse against detainees. The rest were to report assault, battery and other threats of violence against detainees and staff." Only three of the calls led to charges.
Fascists always delegitimize human rights groups.
"The Trump administration is considering declaring that several prominent international NGOs — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam — are anti-Semitic and that governments should not support them," according to Politico.
Meanwhile, Hatewatch reports that "President Trump’s Deputy Communications Director Julia Hahn had connections to the white nationalist movement around the time she joined the White House as an aide."
Not much good news to report this week, but we will leave you with an entertaining story. The Daily Beast profiled a Las Vegas-based dominatrix who is humiliating Trump supporters into voting for Biden in exchange for $1.99 per minute--and who says "business is booming."
The best line of the interview: "I was already doing small penis humiliation with a lot of these guys, so jumping to political humiliation wasn’t that much of a stretch."