Week 26: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
May 13, 2017
What stands out in Week 26 is our normalization of a leader who bold-faced lies to us, and the ease with which Trump continues to indulge in this behavior. We’ve entered uncharted territory: Trump fired the FBI director in charge of investigating him and his regime’s ties to Russia, and admitted he did so because of the investigation.
The other take-away of Week 26 is what you missed. We’re in such a state of constant chaos, it’s easy to overlook the ways the Trump regime continues to tear the fabric of our values, to loot every cent they can, and to move us further away from democracy.
- Despite Russian involvement, Macron defeated Le Pen handily in France’s presidential election, marking the third European country (Austria, Netherlands) to reject the Trump-like candidate since the US election.
- A shocking Guardian article detailed the use of data to influence the outcome of Brexit and the US election. Names tied to the scandal include Trump, Farage, Thiel, Bannon, and Mercer and his Cambridge Analytica.
- The article also warned that the Trump regime is already weaponizing US data for future elections, citing the company that helped Trump win has “been awarded contracts in the Pentagon and the US state.”
- While in Beijing for a meeting with potential investors for the family’s New Jersey project, Kushner’s sister mentioned Jared and the EB-5 visa program to market the investment. EB-5 visas allow immigrants a path to a green card for investing $500,000 in a project that creates US jobs.
- The Kushner family later apologized after being accused of kleptocracy by the media.
- A WAPO researcher who attended the meeting tweeted, “I was threatened, harassed and forced to delete recordings and photos of The Kushner family recruiting Chinese investors in US Green cards.”
- Page said he would no longer cooperate with the Senate Intel Comm’s request, saying he wants information he requested on the “unjustified civil rights violations by the Clinton/Obama regime.”
- Eric Trump reportedly told a reporter back in 2014, when asked about funding golf courses, “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
- Eric Trump later denied having said this, but Donald Jr. had similarly said at a real estate conference in 2008: “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
- Trump-connected lobbyists are making millions at major companies and foreign governments by touting their access to the Trump regime.
- Goldman Sachs hired a top Trump campaign staffer, David Urban, as a lobbyist.
- Eight Senate Democrats asked regulators to investigate whether Trump friend Carl Icahn violated insider trading laws in the biofuel market.
- Wilbur Ross doubled down on the Trump regime rhetoric with Canada on tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, and warned Canada that “threats of retaliatory action” are “inappropriate.”
- Nikki Haley issued a strong statement on Venezuela, citing Maduro’s ‘disregard for the fundamental rights of his own people.’ As Venezuela’s state-owned oil company donated $500k to Trump inauguration, the rest of the regime has been silent.
- The State Depart has yet to resume daily press briefings.
- Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel revived the deleted EPA climate change webpage, which as cited in Week 24 was mysteriously taken down on a Friday night, and put the information up on Chicago’s website.
- Minutes after an ABC reporter asked Spicer why Trump’s campaign website still calls for a Muslim ban, that reference was deleted.
- Despite Trump’s promises to keep jobs in the US, Indiana’s Rexnord — in Pence’s home state nearby Carrier which Trump visited to much ballyhoo — is moving jobs to Mexico. Trump tweeted to blame Obama.
- On CBS’s “60 Minutes,” residents in Granger, IN lamented their neighbor, who had no criminal record and had been in the US for 20-years, being deported and separated from his wife and children, who are all citizens.
- AP reported the Trump regime targeted Haitian immigrants, seeking evidence of crimes as an excuse to deport them.
- A bill that passed the Texas house would allow adoption agencies to reject families on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.
- Dan Heyman, a Public News Service reporter, was arrested Tuesday night in West Virginia for persistently asking Secretary Price questions.
- Price commended the police who arrested the journalist.
- EPA dismissed five scientists from a major scientific review board, and replaced them with representatives from industries the EPA regulates.
- Later in the week, two EPA science board members resigned in protest.
- Trump signed an EO creating a commission on ‘election integrity’ to re-examine Hillary’s 3 million vote win and “fraud.” The commission will be led by Pence and noted xenophobe Kobach of Kansas.
- Rep Lewis issued a statement on the commission, saying “It’s only been 54 years since we were jailed, beaten, and killed for trying to cast a vote.”
- Reversing progress, Sessions instituted a tougher new criminal charging and sentencing policy — a noted failure from the 1980 and 1990s. Sessions policy will disproportionately impact people of color.
- ICE arrested 1,378 suspected “gang members” in what Fox News characterized as the largest gang sweep ever.
- Trump tweeted that China ‘just agreed that the U.S. will be allowed to sell beef, and other major products’ into China again. This deal was brokered by Obama last September.
- FP reported on Bannon’s attempts to get NSA McMaster fired, calling it the WH “Games of Thrones for morons.” McMaster remains one of the few Trump senior officials who was not part of the campaign.
- When asked about NSC’s duties at a daily press briefing, McMaster said “a lot of what we do at the NSC is trying to keep up with the President.”
- During the day of the Yates/Clapper hearing, Trump sent a total of 7 tweets at Yates, including one from the @POTUS account.
- CNN anchors Dana Bash and John King likened Trump’s tweets ahead of the hearing to “witness intimidation.”
- Yates testified that she met with WH counsel McGahn twice to warn him that Flynn had lied to Pence about his conversations with the Russian envoy and therefore Pence’s public statements were false.
- Yates warned McGahn that Flynn was compromised and could be blackmailed by the Russians. Yates met with McGahn on January 26 and 27, and was fired on Monday, January 30, allegedly for saying she would not defend the Muslim ban.
- Despite her warning, Flynn remained as Trump NSA for 18 days, sitting in on important foreign meetings and receiving classified information.
- The day after the Yates/Clapper hearing, Sen Graham said based on what he heard, he wants to investigate Trump’s business dealings.
- After Trump blamed Obama for Flynn having security clearance, NBC reported Flynn never received the broader security clearance required for an NSA.
- Trump briefly changed his Twitter cover Monday night to a statement that Clapper said ‘there is “no evidence” of collusion w/Russia and Trump.’ Trump repeated this lie all week, including in a Friday morning tweet.
- On Friday, Clapper told Andrea Mitchell that he didn’t say what Trump claimed.
- ProPublica reported that part of Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Comm on Huma Abedin was inaccurate. The FBI issued corrections just hours before Trump fired Comey.
- Following Clapper’s testimony on Monday, the Senate Intel Comm asked Treasury Dept agency FinCEN for more information on Trump’s business dealings.
- WSJ reported Friday FinCEN will provide info on businesses owned by Trump and family members to the Senate Intel Comm and the FBI. Ranking member Wyden is interested in shell companies and money laundering through property transfers.
- Vanity Fair reported that FBI sources said there are multiple inquiries in progress, including the cyber investigation and the business side. Bharara would have been investigating the business side as US AG SDNY.
- Late Friday night, the US Attorney SDNY Twitter account tweeted from acting AG Kim, ‘We will not allow the US financial system to be used to launder proceeds of crimes committed anywhere-here or in Russia.’
- On Friday, a bi-partisan group of 178 former US AGs and asst US AGs of SDNY wrote a letter to Rosenstein calling for a Special Prosecutor
- Law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius provided a letter showing Trump has limited business dealings with Russia. ABC reported Morgan, Lewis has deep ties to Russia and received a “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award in 2016.
- Trump’s initial stated basis for firing Comey was a letter from AG Sessions and Deputy AG Rosenstein, relating to Hillary’s emails. Of note, Sessions had agreed to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation.
- Comey became the third person, after Yates and Bharara, fired by Trump while investigating him. Mary McCord who was the DOJ assistant AG overseeing the Trump-Russia probe also resigned without explanation.
- Shortly after the firing, CNN reported grand jury subpoenas for business records have been issued to Flynn as part of the FBI’s Russia investigation.
- The Senate Intel Comm also subpoenaed Flynn after he declined to comply with their April 28th letter unless he was offered immunity
- Trump’s popularity hit a new low in a Quinnipiac poll: 36% approve, 58% disapprove. The poll was conducted before the Comey firing.
- The morning after firing Comey, Tillerson and then Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
- Lavrov scolded Andrea Mitchell for asking Tillerson a question — “Who was giving you your manners, you know?” Tillerson did not intervene.
- Trump’s meeting took place at the WH, and included Lavrov and Kislyak. Photo credited to Russian news agency TASS emerged, showing of a joyous meeting. US media was excluded from both meetings.
- The WH readout of the meeting with Lavrov did not mention Kislyak. If not for Russian new agency photos, no one would know he was there.
- POLITICO reported the idea to exclude US press came from Putin. As did the insistence for the meeting at the WH.
- The Senate Intelligence Committee invited Comey to testify next Tuesday. He declined for now, saying he needed some time off first.
- NYT reported that days before the firing, Comey had asked Deputy AG Rosenstein for a significant increase in resources for the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the US election.
- General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, said of Trump’s successive firing of Yates, Bharara and Comey, “…it’s beginning to feel a little bit like Nicaragua around here.”
- FT said of Comey’s firing, “Putin chalked up another victory,” as Trump’s action resembles that of a non-democracy.
- Trump claimed that he followed the recommendation of his Deputy AG Rosenstein that Comey be fired over his handling of Hillary’s emails. By the next day, leaks led to multiple stories which contradicted that claim.
- This story would change again and again in the coming days — leaving surrogates having lied to the media. Pence said Trump fired Comey at the “recommendation of the Deputy AG,” seven times during a presser.
- WAPO reported that in fact Trump made a decision to fire Comey, and then met with Sessions and Rosenstein to craft a plan for how. Trump was totally unprepared for the media explosion and political backlash.
- Trump himself said in a NBC interview Thursday that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired Comey, saying “…Russia is a made up story.”
- WAPO also reported that Trump was angry that Comey would not back his false Obama wiretapping claim, and that Comey focused on the Trump-Russia probe and not leaks.
- Reuters reported that Trump was infuriated that Comey would not preview his Senate testimony for Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein ahead of the May 3rd hearing.
- NYT reported that Trump and Comey’s dislike each another. Comey told associated that Trump was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”
- WSJ reported that Comey had started getting daily instead of weekly briefings in the past three weeks due to potential evidence of collusion.
- WSJ also reported that on Monday, Comey briefed lawmakers on his request to boost the investigation, and requested additional personnel from Rosenstein.
- In an open-letter to Rosenstein, 20 attorney generals called for an independent investigation, saying Trump’s firing of Comey was a violation of the public trust.
- Trump abandoned plans to visit the FBI after the Comey firing. According to NBC, Trump was told agents might not provide a warm reception.
- McClatchy reported Comey sought to expand his Trump-Russia probe to include Manafort, citing Manafort earned $80–100mm for political and business consulting work done for clients, including a Russian billionaire.
- Rachel Maddow reported that despite earlier indications he would do so, Manafort has yet to register as a foreign agent. Also, Sessions would not confirm if he has recused himself from matters involving Manafort.
- WSJ reported the Justice Dept requested Manafort’s bank records as part of a probe into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.
- WSJ also reported that NY AG Schneiderman and Manhattan DA Vance have been examining real-estate transactions by Mr. Manafort.
- On Thursday, acting FBI Director McCabe testified at a Sen Intel Comm open, televised hearing. McCabe said he will not update the WH on the Russian investigation.
- McCabe contradicted the Trump regime’s assertion that Comey was not well-liked at the FBI, saying “the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.”
- Also contradicting WH claims, McCabe called the Trump-Russia investigation “highly significant.”
- Trump still claimed on Thursday that he had spoken to Comey three times about whether he was under investigation. When Sen Collins asked if that would standard practice, McCabe answered, “It is not.”
- POLITICO reported Rosenstein arrived at the Senate Intel Comm’s office while the open, televised hearing was taking place. Burr and Warner left the hearing, for what Burr said was a meeting “we can’t push off.”
- Sarah Flores, DOJ spokesperson lied that the meeting with Burr was previously planned, and is “nothing unusual.”
- NYT reported that at a WH dinner shortly after Trump took office, at Trump’s request, Comey declined to pledge his loyalty or discuss the Trump-Russia investigation.
- The dinner took place on January 27, the day after Yates initially informed the WH counsel that Flynn was compromised and subject to blackmail.
- Rudy Giuliani, who was also photographed at Trump Hotel DC the night of the Comey firing, was given a May 19 deadline by a judge in Detroit to produce his memo for Trump on the Muslim Ban.
- In a series of erratic early morning tweets Friday, Trump threatened to cease press daily briefings, and tweeted ‘Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!’
- A source close to Comey said he is “not worried about any tapes.”
- Presidential historian Michael Beschloss noted in a tweet, “Presidents are supposed to have stopped routinely taping visitors without their knowledge when Nixon’s taping system was revealed in 1973.”
- Top House and Senate Democrats demanded that Trump release any tapes of communication between he and Comey.
- Chaffetz asked the DOJ Inspector General to look at Comey’s firing. Democrats also asked him to look into whether Sessions has recused himself and whether the FBI investigation into Russia is properly staffed.
- Durbin and Feinstein called on Rosenstein to resign if he refuses to appoint a special counsel. Klobuchar said Senators plan next week to further push this demand in close doored meetings.
- On the backs of visit by Duterte and the Russian envoy, Trump will host brutal authoritarian Erdogan for a WH visit on May 16.
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