Politics postsSunday May 20, 2018
Of the Trump, By the Trump, For the Trump
“Trump’s antagonistic relationship to facts is no longer just a matter of politics. It now affects day-to-day governance.”
Here's a Cliff Notes version of Evan Osnos' must-read New Yorker piece, “Only the Best People: Donald Trump's war on the ‘deep state,’” about how Trump is remaking the federal government with people whose main qualificaiton is loyalty to him. It's scary shit. Please read the whole thing:
- Every President expects devotion. ... But Trump has elevated loyalty to the primary consideration. Since he has no fixed ideology, the White House cannot screen for ideas, so it seeks a more personal form of devotion. ...
- To vet candidates, the Obama campaign had used a questionnaire with 63 queries about employment, finances, writings, and social-media posts. The Trump team cut the number of questions to 25, by dropping the requests for professional references and tax returns and removing items concerning loans, personal income, and real-estate holdings. The questionnaire was speckled with typos ...
- Republican think tanks and donors succeeded in installing preferred nominees. The earliest wave arrived from the Heritage Foundation; subsequent ones came from Charles and David Koch’s network of conservative advocacy groups and from the American Enterprise Institute. But the White House maintained a virtual blockade against Republicans who had signed letters opposing Trump’s candidacy. ...
- The White House brought in an array of outsiders, who, at times, ran into trouble. As an assistant to the Secretary of Energy, the Administration installed Sid Bowdidge, whose recent employment had included managing a Meineke Car Care branch in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Bowdidge departed after it emerged that he had called Muslims “maggots.” In December, Matthew Spencer Petersen, a nominee to the federal bench, became a brief online sensation when Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, asked him a series of basic law-school questions, which revealed that Petersen had never argued a motion, tried a case, or taken a deposition by himself. Embarrassing details came out about other judicial nominees: Brett Talley, who had never tried a case in federal court, wandered cemeteries hunting for ghosts; Jeff Mateer had called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan.” ...
- Trump sometimes tested ethical standards in the hiring process. In January, shortly before the Justice Department named Geoffrey Berman to be the interim U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York—a position with jurisdiction over the headquarters of Trump’s business empire—Trump personally interviewed Berman for the job. Criminal-justice experts were alarmed. “I am not aware of any President in recent history that personally conducted such interviews,” Marcos Daniel Jiménez, a former U.S. Attorney appointed by George W. Bush, told me. William Cummings, a U.S. Attorney appointed by Gerald Ford, said, “In the situation where the sitting President has publicly been noted to be the subject of an investigation by the F.B.I. or special counsel, I think it is unseemly.” ...
- Last fall, Trump appointees in the department became frustrated by bad press over efforts to expand mining and drilling, and by Freedom of Information Act requests that sought details of their contacts with powerful industries. [Communications Director Matthew] Allen received another order: send FOIA requests about political appointees to the subjects themselves before releasing the results to the public. He was taken aback. “It was just a blatant conflict of interest,” he said. “The person who may be under suspicion, that they’re requesting records on, is going to be an approval authority in the chain. That just doesn’t seem O.K.” ...
- In one agency after another, I encountered a pattern: on controversial issues, the Administration is often not writing down potentially damaging information. ... For many in government, Trump’s antagonistic relationship to facts is no longer just a matter of politics. It now affects day-to-day governance.
- The White House has politicized work that was once insulated from interference, Schwab said. “We see that in the F.B.I. very publicly, and then I saw that at ICE from the highest levels of the White House. Who knows where else it’s happening in the rest of the government.”
Is there a tipping point? That's a key question. At what point is our federal government made up of such idiot Trump loyalists that the entire aparatus, a government of the people, by the people, for the people, does Trump's bidding rather than the country's?
‘We Are Putting Our Country at Risk’
From Evan Osnos' must-read piece on the Trump administration's attack on the career civil servants that protect us:
Since taking office, Trump has attacked the integrity of multiple parts of his government, including the F.B.I. (“reputation is in tatters”) and the Department of Justice (“embarrassment to our country”). His relationship with the State Department is especially vexed. ... Sixty per cent of the highest-ranked diplomats have departed.
Veteran U.S. diplomats say that the State Department is in its most diminished condition since the nineteen-fifties, when McCarthy called it a hotbed of “Communists and queers” and vowed to root out the “prancing mimics of the Moscow party line.” McEldowney, the retired Ambassador, said, “I believe to the depth of my being that by undermining our diplomatic capability we are putting our country at risk. Something awful is inevitably going to happen, and people will ask, ‘Where are the diplomats?’ And the tragic answer will have to be ‘We got rid of them in a fire sale.’”
Exit Stage Right? Trump's ‘Rampant Criminality’
“I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.”
Adam Davidson, The New Yorker, “Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency.” He says that reporters on the ground knew Iraq was fucked in April 2003 before the rest of us. He says business reporters who were paying attention knew the world economy was fucked in Dec. 2007 before the rest of us. And he says people who are paying attention know that Trump is done. Collusion is still up in the air. But this stuff? This stuff will stick, he says.
“When it comes to the phenomenon of Donald Trump, you have to give him this: sanctimony is not foremost among his sins. He provokes no moral disappointment, because he creates no moral expectations. Just as his business career was characterized by Mob-connected cronies, racial bias, aggrieved contractors, dubious partners, byzantine lawsuits, and tabloid sensation, his Presidency dispenses with ethical pretense. Human rights in foreign affairs, compassion for the disadvantaged in domestic affairs, and truth in public statements are objects only of disdain.”
Read this last night. Just went “Dah-yum.” If Trump had sense enough, he'd wither from the brutal truth of it. But part of his power is in his obtuseness. That's part of how he's never held accountable. You get the feeling when the reckoning comes, it will come, not for him, but for the country.
The NRA's People Problem
Wow!!! Doesn't this sign sum up the craziness of everything in the gun lobby argument. I love this. pic.twitter.com/ho0yesX3F5— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) March 26, 2018