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.
When asked about the Trump regime continuing to block an orderly transition to the Biden team as required by law, White House spox Kayleigh McEnany, a master of deflection, offered a particularly egregious lie. "This President was never given an orderly transition of power," she said. "His presidency was never accepted."
The reality, according to Michael Lewis's book, The Fifth Risk, was very different. Trump, who was reportedly surprised that he had won, was disinterested in and contemptuous of the process. The Obama administration were eager to prepare a team of neophytes who had little knowledge of how government works, but they encountered a group of ideologues who believed that they had nothing to learn about running what may be the largest organization in the world. Jared Kushner was shocked to learn that so many officials were leaving. "It was like he thought it was a corporate acquisition or something," an Obama staffer told Lewis. "He thought everyone just stayed."
The Trump transition team sent a group of young staffers who they called "the Beachhead Team" into various federal agencies. According to Lewis...
"They mainly ran around the building insulting people,' says a former Obama official. 'There was a mentality that everything the government does is stupid and bad and the people in it are stupid and bad,' says another... "These people were insane," says [a former Department of Energy] staffer.
"We had tried desperately to prepare them," said Tarak Shaw, chief of staff for the DOE's basic science program. "But that required that they show up. And Bring qualified people. But they didn't. They didn't ask for even an introductory briefing. Like, 'what do you do?'"
Four years later, and they haven't changed much. A good deal of this week's What Fresh Hell--and probably of the roundups that remain--chronicles how Trump and Senate Republicans are doing as much as possible to burrow the same kind of belligerent ideologues into the federal government as possible before January 20.
According to Politico, "Senate Republicans are racing to install a series of conservative nominees that will outlast Donald Trump. While Trump still refuses to concede the election, the Senate GOP is moving quickly to ensure that the president’s stamp sticks to the Federal Elections Commission, Federal Reserve Board, the federal judiciary and beyond."
Bloomberg reports that "Senate Republicans are racing ahead with post-election judicial confirmations, breaking a 123-year tradition against voting on judicial nominees of an outgoing president of the defeated party during a lame duck session."
The Senate has confirmed six district court nominees since reconvening after the Nov. 3 election that saw Democrat Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump. Trial court nominees confirmed this week included another Trump nominee rated unqualified by the American Bar Association.
“I don’t see how you ratchet this back,” said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies judicial nominations.
Since 1897, the judicial nominees of presidents who have lost reelection or whose party was defeated haven’t been confirmed after the election, Wheeler said.
The Senate just confirmed 33-year-old Kat Mizelle, a Jones Day associate and ex-Thomas clerk, to a federal judgeshi… https://t.co/RJNNyh6nWg— Jacqueline Thomsen (@Jacqueline Thomsen)1605738454.0
CNN reports that the WH is undertaking a "growing list" of foreign policy moves "that are meant to limit President-elect Joe Biden's options before he takes office in January." One official said "their goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out."
"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he does not plan to extend several key emergency lending programs beyond the end of the year and asked the Federal Reserve to return the money supporting them, a decision that could hinder President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s ability to use the central bank’s vast powers to cushion the economic fallout from the virus." More at The New York Times.
Just in: Senators Mark Warner and Jack Reed are asking the DoD inspector general to investigate process by which Mi… https://t.co/7V2Bkw07zK— Natasha Bertrand (@Natasha Bertrand)1605626324.0
Unreal-- DHS says it temporarily put FEMA chief Peter Gaynor in charge of the department Nov 14 so he could change… https://t.co/5wF5RKEKwt— Nick Miroff (@Nick Miroff)1605638523.0
"Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate author and former U.S. Air Force officer Scott O’Grady to be the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs," according to Media Matters. "O’Grady is a Trump adviser who has retweeted QAnon accounts, pushed right-wing conspiracy theories, and promoted other toxic rhetoric."
Yashar Ali notes that "O’Grady, who has been nominated by President Donald Trump to become the next assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, killed two elephants during a 2014 hunting trip in Zimbabwe."
"A former speechwriter fired from the White House in 2018 for attending a conference at which white supremacists were also present has been appointed to a commission tasked with preserving Holocaust-related sites across Europe," reports Yahoo News. "The former speechwriter, Darren Beattie, will join the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, according to a press release sent by the White House on Tuesday evening."
This is insane: A right-wing ideologue who promotes extremist Israeli groups is now in charge of an Investment Fund… https://t.co/Y9HTTEOnWC— Alex Kane (@Alex Kane)1605883801.0
A little tale of corruption, via Reuters...
Before William Barr became President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Justice, he represented Caterpillar Inc, a Fortune 100 company, in a federal criminal investigation by the department.
Much was at stake for Caterpillar: Since 2018, the Internal Revenue Service has been demanding $2.3 billion in payments from the company in connection with the tax matters under criminal investigation. The company is contesting that finding.
A week after Barr was nominated for the job of attorney general, Justice officials in Washington told the investigative team in the active criminal probe of Caterpillar to take “no further action” in the case, according to an email written by one of the agents and reviewed by Reuters.
"The Trump White House blocked the Justice Department from making a deal in October 2019 to pay for mental health services for migrant families who had been separated by the Trump administration," according to NBC News. The Department of Justice "strongly, and unanimously, supported the settlement" but "the Office of White House Counsel made the decision to reject [it] after consultation with senior adviser Stephen Miller, the driving force behind many of President Donald Trump's immigration policies, including family separations."
Crisis has been the defining constant at the Voice of America and its parent agency for the past five months.
That's how long Michael Pack, the conservative documentary maker picked by President Trump to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, has been in charge.
In that time, he's noisily erased protections for government journalists, ousted leaders from executive suites to the newsroom, and rejected visas for foreign staffers. There have been scattershot accusations of ideological bias and national security lapses, outrage from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike, lawsuits and even a sex scandal.
Finally, a judge ruled this week that allegedly slandering a woman who accused him of rape was not part of Trump's official duties as president and the Department of Justice could not use taxpayer resources to defend him in a civil suit. More at Law and Crime.