Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Celebrity Apprentice TrumpWorld Grab-Bag

This week was rife with tales of TrumpWorld government departures and speculation about who was next. The firing of Rex Tillerson left some speculating whether the "suicide pact" resignations would be enacted. There was some fluttering rumor 24 hours or so ago that H.R. McMaster was due to leave and the General Kelly was likely to resign. So far, McMaster is safe (or as safe as one can be in that milieu) and as this anecdote supports, Kelly is still fitting in quite nicely as Trump's CoS with all the dignity that position entails:

According to those sources, Kelly recounted a very awkward conversation with Tillerson during which he informed the secretary that President Donald Trump would very likely soon fire him. The awkwardness was less a result of the contents of the conversation than its setting.

Tillerson, Kelly told the room, was suffering from a stomach bug during a diplomatic swing through Africa, and was using a toilet when Kelly broke the news to him.

Sources were stunned that, even in an off-record setting, Kelly would say this—to a room filled with White House officials and political reporters—about Tillerson, who does not officially leave the State Department until the end of the month.


Someone certainly had to go. It couldn't be McMaster (and I think this is because the firing got leaked before Trump could pettishly do it by Tweet which just killed the drama) but Trump was planning on fucking with Deputy FBI Director McCabe anyway. And with a couple days to go before he was safe to get his pension and retire--Boom! Time of career death 10 PM EST on a Friday. As one does. If one is AG Jeff Sessions, and supposedly recused from things having to do with the Russian election interference investigation, of which the Comey firing which McCabe has important details about is a part, and which now folds into the Mueller investigation that also includes obstruction of justice because (taking a deep bloggy breath) Trump didn't fire Comey because of his tenderness over how Hillary Clinton was treated by the FBI during the 2016 election, and that surely has nothing to do with his direction to Sessions regarding McCabe in this instance. (I don't really think the recommendation of the OIG matters that much here because we have Twitter-proof that Trump was always fixing to have McCabe fired. Trump couldn't help but let us all know via Twitter because, I think, he doesn't really have much of an internal life.)

In other words--Trump was feeling bitchy and needed to holler "Off with their heads" like the little Queen of Hearts he is. But I don't think it will be without repercussions. If the result from media coverage isn't the pick-me-up the White House Celebrity Apprentice Boss was looking for, Trump has a little list (or a big one) of people he can go to remove (Shulkin, McMaster, really, why isn't he thinking of getting rid of Ryan Zinke? That guy is awful!) to try and give his mood a boost. But some personnel decisions can come back to bite him. McCabe's might, in part because he telegraphed via Twitter his feelings. And also because it ties in to whether McCabe is a witness regarding the obstruction of justice charge(s).  And because he screwed over a guy with 21 years of honorable service to the FBI as a demonstration to other law enforcement professionals who might not actually receive the takeaway perception Trump hoped they did.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

PA-18 Was Close

I think the thing to keep in mind is, this district went big for Trump in 2016 and was gerrymandered to be a safe GOP seat, and Saccone wasn't really a particularly bad candidate (whatever Trump might say despite his rally for him).  But something changed. Does this reflect on the 2018 midterms?

I want to say "yes".

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Huh. Wonder how much this had to do with Tillerson's response to the likely Russian assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal in the UK? (Or was he already fired by then?)

Anyway, while he was responsible for hollowing out the State Department and this shouldn't feel like a gigantic surprise, it still seems...sudden.

UPDATE: Mike Pompeo, who is moving from CIA to State, met with sanctioned Russian spies. Gina Haspel, who Trump is putting forward for CIA Director, is connected to torture. In other personnel news, Trump's personal assistant John McEntee was kicked out of the White House for "unspecified" security reasons, and will be joining Trump's presidential re-election campaign, where, apparently, unspecified security issues are less of a big deal.

UPDATE 2: Per Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, Tillerson only found out about his firing by Tweet today, contradicting the White House narrative that the decision was made Friday. In a related story, Steve Goldstein is also fired.

They Didn't Find What They Weren't Looking For

Frankly, if this was just going to keep being a farce, with Rep. Nunes coming up with trumpery distractions and members like Rep. Conaway not knowing basic things, with folks either refusing to turn up for questioning or just failing to answer questions (Bannon, Hicks, Lewandowski), well? It might as well be ended, then.

But I promise you, if somehow Hillary Clinton was president right now, they'd still have months worth of material on her damn emails.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

This TrumpWorld Grab-Bag is a Dumpster Fire

In what surely feels like a sign of the times, Merriam-Webster has added the term "dumpster fire" to the dictionary, and that is exactly what TrumpWorld feels like: to wit, "an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence". Except TrumpWorld isn't any singular calamitous or mismanaged occurrence--it is entire mixed lots of rubbish burning together with different layers of grease or spent rubber or whatever have you undergoing their own unique kinds of combustion according to their chemistry.

One might think this has something to do with the man in charge. I don't know if Trump himself is deep, but his superficiality seems to have layers. He is keen to tell people that his White House isn't in chaos, but admits he likes conflict. He talks about the great energy he's surrounded with, but the White House itself could be powered with electricity generated by staff evacuating through a revolving door. Trump no sooner made the statement that people wanted to work at the White House than it was announced that his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, was leaving over a disagreement on trade policy.  (It apparently makes no difference that Trump plans to enact the tariff scheme in "a loving way".  "I'm going to tariff you so good. Tariff a piece of that ass." Etc.)

But who's to say Trump even is in charge? In an essential read on Christopher Steele and the Trump/Russia connection by Jane Mayer, it's asserted that Putin vetoed Mitt Romney for Secretary of State in favor of Friend of Russia Rex Tillerson. (I myself mostly assumed that Trump let on that the spot was available to Mitt just for the sheer joy of seeing a man grovel.)

It's not fully implausible--it seems like former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was working out "foreign policy" (or bribery and kidnapping) on his own ambit during his short term under foreign influence, and it's quite possible that White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner backed a blockade against Qatar in retaliation for a failure to invest in his family's business.  The operations of this White House are such that one would be suspicious if anyone did anything without some appearance of ulterior motives. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Trump Paradox

Every little bit of this sounds as guilty as hell. An investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election didn't necessarily need to have anything to do with Donald Trump to be worthy of investigation, and since nothing really did leak to discredit Trump during the campaign, he sounds a bit pouty over the results of the election that he won.

Also, given that we know full well that his campaign was outreached by Russians claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton (via George Papadopoulos and Don Jr.), it's more troubling that the Trump campaign knew it was happening and never mentioned it. Which means they were benefitting from Russian rigging and did not care.

The paradox here is that investigating the Russian meddling was not nothing, and telling Putin to stop meddling was not nothing. That Trump's own administration is doing nothing, however, and that Trump is still so touchy about the Mueller investigation that is happening? Is proof of how very disingenuous this Twitter poutrage really is.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

We All Tell Little White Lies

I'm sure any White House Communications Director might say out loud where the people can hear that telling "white lies" is part of her job, while clamming up about most everything else.

When I hear people aren't talking to Congress, I tend to think they will be more forthcoming with Mueller, now.

UPDATE: Aaaannd Hope Hicks has resigned from her position at the White House, stating that she would like to pursue opportunities outside of the White House. There seems to be some question about whether she really had been thinking about resigning for some times (if not months, then, at least, weeks) or whether this resignation was prompted by her performance at the hearing in dropping the confession that occasionally, she had to lie. I feel like it would be very strange if she did want to stay in an increasingly hostile and stressful environment and probably did have leaving planned. I also wouldn't think it had nothing whatsoever to do with the Russia investigation--but not the House intelligence probe part, because that's bollocks and no one faces any repercussions, and I don't think anyone would necessarily be shocked about an admission of just a wee bit of lying by this particular White House's standards. Other administrations--yes. This one, no.

What made me pretty sure she already had her mental desk cleared was the pictures in which she has what I guess I'd call a "Mona Lisa smile". And I am somewhat more persuaded that the conversation with the Mueller probe is coming, especially because of her part in crafting the statement to cover up Don Jr's Russian contacts during the campaign, and her regular statements that she didn't know of any contacts between campaign personnel and Russia, which almost certainly has to least gray lies, wouldn't you think?

(Responsibly photo-crediting Leah Mills/Reuters for an absolutely stunning shot, silly book additions are me.)

This is Not your Father-in-Law's TrumpWorld Grab-Bag

As you might have surmised, this edition of the TrumpWorld Grab-Bag is going to feature pretty heavily on Jared Kushner, who just had his security clearance downgraded, which seems great, although there is a pretty big issue with his ever having had one in the first place. Leaving aside the obvious problem of nepotism, Kushner is crazily in debt, his family has shown a willingness to use his position to get mad unethical, and, as was revealed today, a pattern of financial insecurity and poor, na├»ve decision-making has made foreign countries decide he is a super great halfwit to work with.  This was kind of a no-brainer--Kushner should not have high security access because his position is really insecure.

It's also probably a no-brainer to suppose that this means he either can't do his presumed job (which is, last I checked, all the foreign policy things we're supposed to have a State Department for) or, Daddy Trump and Ivanka are going to let him crib from their notes. This is a situation of such abominable stupidity it could only be happening in the Trump White House.

But in the world of "Jared can't catch a break", he's also facing a Hatch Act violation for talking up President Trump's 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, while using his official White House title. Kushner, of course, brought Parscale on to the 2016 campaign and worked closely with him, so he has a good idea about the quality of his work-product from the digital end of the campaign, but even that is darn problematic. Parscale went from being pretty much no one in politics, to being a weird 2016 success story, but the funny thing is, he's tied to Cambridge Analytica, which is tied to Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn and, obviously, the Russia investigation.  Parscale has already had a chat with Congress, and is probably going to get another one with Robert Mueller and friends. (Don't sweat, pets, there's other hang-ups this cat likely has.)

Among the things that are kind of alarming about Parscale's "genius" strategy is that it counted on using social media as a voter suppression tactic for targeted demographics. And oh! Hey! Far out! Neat! That was exactly the game the Russia interference was playing at, the Mueller has already indicted folks for. But really, who knows just how Russian assets intersected with the Trump campaign--yet? 

You know who might or might not know? Roger Stone. Apparently, it turns out he was all up in the WikiLeaks DMs (even though he tried to front like he wasn't and WikiLeaks tried to front like he wasn't) getting told to please stop telling people he was in touch with WikiLeaks. These reads are a little funky. You know who's digital back and forth I might like to know about, though--Assange and Sean Hannity. I know. This might just be a fanfic "ship" I have in my head. Anyhow, Sean Hannity recently said something kind of funny--that he was actively involved in the Trump campaign, and he never heard of George Papadopoulos.  "Actively involved"? Wow. This was a journalistic integrity half-minute with Sean Hannity.

I can't assess whether Hannity ever crossed paths with George Papadopoulos, but Joseph Mifsud, the professor that dangled Hillary Clinton "dirt" obtained by Russia to him, is missing. Is he the victim of foul play, or just ducking child support? I can't even pretend I know for sure, but if he's alive, I'm sure he has stories.

But as it must, this TrumpWorld Grab-Bag has to circle back around to Trump himself. Jared Kushner wasn't the only person whose dodgy background interfered with performance of his job--four Commerce employees just got the boot for clearance issues. There's definitely still "vetting" issues. But the poor vetting might not even be as bad as the failure of this Administration to address the Russian election hacking to any real degree. NSA Chief, Admiral Mike Rogers advised that he had not been given any order about disrupting the ongoing Russian plot. That is not good, because we know that Russia will try to affect the 2018 midterms.  We've also recently found out that the election-related systems of seven states were breached by Russian hacking in 2016.

And the GOP-lead Congress doesn't seem arsed to do much about any of it, either. (If anything, they still want to make our election systems less secure.) But if Congress doesn't seem interested in things like seeing if Trump is financially compromised due to his foreign indebtedness (which is, rather like his son-in-law's a pretty big deal, whatever Rep. Conaway thinks), Robert Mueller is, as always, on that case.