Week 47: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
October 7, 2017
This was a dark week for our country, with the unfolding humanitarian crises in Puerto Rico and USVI, and the deadliest mass shooting in modern history in Las Vegas. Trump’s tin-ear and lack of empathy to these events were conspicuous in his ominous “calm before the storm” statement Thursday.
Amid the chaos, major stories broke on Kushner and Ivanka’s use of personal email accounts, all of which were surreptitiously moved to a Trump Organization server. Mueller’s Russia probe continued full-steam, and news of a meeting with Christopher Steele indicated the dossier is likely being used as a roadmap. As in every weekly list, this week rights and protections were taken away from women and marginalized communities.
- Despite the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, for a second weekend since Maria hit, Trump golfed Saturday and Sunday at Trump properties. DoD reported Saturday that just 45% of Puerto Ricans have drinking water and 5% have electricity.
- Late Saturday, the WH sent flattering readouts of Trump’s conversations with a former governor of Puerto Rico, and the governors of Puerto Rico and the U.S.Virgin Islands. Readouts are typically reserved for calls with foreign leaders.
- Trump sent his most tweets in a day since taking office on Saturday (25): continuing his manufactured battle with the NFL, and his attacks on the fake news and the Mayor of San Juan.
- On Saturday, after his first tour of Puerto Rico, the DoD’s primary military liaison with FEMA, top general Jeffrey Buchanan, said the damage there is “the worst I’ve ever seen.”
- Fourteen Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee called for an oversight hearing on the Trump regime’s handling of the Puerto Rico and USVI relief efforts.
- On Sunday night, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, one man who owned 47 guns killed 58 and wounded hundreds. Trump said the quick response of law enforcement was “in many ways, a miracle.”
- In the aftermath of the shooting, top trending stories on Facebook and Google promoted politicized fake news from unreliable sources like 4chan which claimed the shooter was a Democrat opposed to Trump.
- While refusing to the call the white male shooter a terrorist, Trump referred to him as “a very sick man” and “demented.” The first bill Trump signed revoked Obama-era gun check for people with mental illness.
- NBC obtained the Trump WH talking points distributed for the Las Vegas shooting. They include “thoughts and prayers,” “gather facts before making policy arguments,” and comparisons to Baltimore and Chicago murders.
- On Saturday, funding for CHIP, the program which provided healthcare for 9 million children and pregnant women in low-income households, expired. No action was taken by Congress to renew it.
- Two high school football players in Crosby, TX were kicked off their high school football team for protesting during the national anthem — one knelt and one raised his fist.
- According to a reporter, at least two NFL teams were said to be bowing to pressure by Trump, and plan to create policies requiring their players to stand during the national anthem.
- Joining Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the UAE, the US voted against a UN Human Rights Council resolution that condemns the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts. The resolution passed by a 27–13 margin.
- A judge in Texas ruled that state officials would be violating state privacy laws if they handed over voters’ personal information to Trump’s Election Integrity Commission. The judge issued a temporary restraining order.
- Trump’s DOJ is investigating affirmative action at Harvard. The revelation came to light after watchdog group American Oversight filed a FOIA request for information on affirmative action investigations at two schools.
- Brownsville, TX city commissioner Cesar De Leon apologized after the release of a recording of his racist rant using the “n-word” about county and city officials. After initially refusing to, he resigned under pressure.
- BuzzFeed reported Trump regime lawyers asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed to halt Trump’s transgender military ban, saying the Pentagon hasn’t finalized the details of the ban yet.
- Six transgender soldiers who are part of the lawsuit say they have already suffered — their medical treatments have been canceled and their careers are being derailed — and hence they need immediate relief.
- On Wednesday, Sessions rolled back an Obama-era policy which protected transgender workers from discrimination, saying “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se.”
- On Friday, Trump rolled back Obamacare’s birth control mandate, allowing any employer to cite religious or moral objections to covering the cost of birth control for employees under their healthcare plan.
- On Friday, Sessions issued new guidelines which instructed federal agencies and attorneys to protect religious liberty. The policy provides broad exemptions to discriminate against women and LGBTQ people.
- ABC reported Sessions consulted with Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group that champions conservative causes, ahead of issuing the new guidelines.
- After Gov. Brown signed a law limiting cooperation between local police and ICE in CA, the Trump regime said it will go after undocumented immigrants and likely pick up “collateral” they were not initially targeting.
- Mother Jones reported according to documents released by a federal court, Kris Kobach tried to roll back voter protection by amending the National Voter Registration Act, adding requirements to make it harder to register to vote.
- On Tuesday, 14 days after Hurricane Maria decimated the island, Trump visited Puerto Rico. He praised federal and local officials for the response, but purposefully excluded the Mayor of San Juan.
- Trump complained about the costs of helping Americans in Puerto Rico, saying “you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money.” Similar statements were not made about Texas or Florida.
- Trump hailed the relief response as “incredible” and “great,” and bragged that “only 16 people are known to have died,” many less than Katrina. Hours later, the death count rose to 34.
- In an image that became symbolic of his trip to Puerto Rico and his lack of empathy for the people, Trump went to a supply distribution point dressed in a dark suit, and tossed rolls of paper towels into a crowd.
- Oxfam took the unusual step of criticizing the US government. Oxfam said it is “outraged at the slow and inadequate response” by the Trump regime in Puerto Rico.
- Oxfam also announced it would be taking the rare step of intervening in an American disaster, pursuing its own two-pronged approach in Puerto Rico.
- CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is in Puerto Rico, warned that tens of thousands could die for want of insulin, blood pressure medications, and antibiotics, as well as sweltering heat and lack of food and water.
- By Friday, the official death count in Puerto Rico reached 36, but as NPR reported, the actual toll is expected to be much higher with uncounted bodies piling up in places that have no way to communicate.
- Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, who traveled to Puerto Rico on his own expense, said the media reports are correct: the island is a humanitarian crisis. Gutiérrez said the Trump regime doesn’t “want you to know the truth.”
- WAPO reported FEMA removed statistics about drinking water access and electricity in Puerto Rico from their website on Thursday morning.
- Following a social media outcry, the statistics were restored on Friday afternoon. Stats reveal progress is extremely slow.
- On Wednesday morning, Trump said he would wipe out Puerto Rico’s debt, causing trading prices of Puerto Rico municipal bonds to plummet. Director of the Office Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney dialed back: “I wouldn’t take it word for word with that
- Politico reported on a third, previously undisclosed email account on Kushner and Ivanka’s private domain. The three accounts raise concern about the security of sensitive government documents.
- The third account has hundreds of emails from WH addresses. In addition to Kushner and Ivanka, personal household staff had access to the account for scheduling purposes.
- USA Today reported Kushner and Ivanka’s personal emails were redirected to Trump Organization server 2–3 days after public disclosure about the existence personal emails.
- The move also comes shortly after Mueller asked the WH to turn over records related to his investigation of Russia’s interference in the election.
- Rep. Elijah Cummings asked the FBI to investigate whether Kushner and Ivanka exposed classified information through their use of personal email and transfer to Trump Organization servers.
- The US Office of Special Counsel found Ambassador Haley violated the Hatch Act by promoting a House candidate on Twitter. Haley was given a warning. The investigation follows a complaint filed by CREW in June.
- WAPO reported, back in August, Trump saw an article about Republican-controlled Iowa requesting federal permission to fix its Obamacare markets. Trump’s instruction was, “Tell Iowa no.”
- Trump’s HHS taken many steps to suppress sign-ups for Obamacare including slashing grants for groups that help consumers, cutting the enrollment period in half, and reducing the advertising budget by 90%.
- McClatchy reported Kushner and Ivanka were both fined $200 for missing deadlines to submit financial reports required by government ethics rules. This is Kushner’s second time being fined for late filings.
- After receiving an 18-day filing extension, Kushner has made changes to his financial disclosure forms 39 times. In many cases, those changes were in response to questions from the OGE.
- Eli Miller, Sec. Mnuchin’s chief of staff, flew in hedge fund billionaire Nelson Peltz’s private jet to Palm Beach. The Treasury Department’s inspector general office has launched an inquiry.
- BuzzFeed reported the US intelligence unit of Mnuchin’s Treasury Dept has been violating domestic surveillance laws by spying on financial records of US citizens and companies.
- The Interior Dept’s inspector general opened an investigation into Sec. Zinke’s travel, including his use of taxpayer-funded charter and military planes, and his mixing of official trips with political appearances.
- NYT reported on EPA Chief Pruitt’s schedule: almost every day he has multiple meetings, sessions, or speaking engagements with top corporate executives and lobbyists of the industries the EPA regulates, but rarely does he meet with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates.
- Politico reported, in a closed-door meeting with wealthy donors, Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers floated the idea of a “purge” of anti-Trump Republicans, saying they are blocking Trump’s legislative agenda.
- A federal judge in Phoenix dismissed the criminal case against Arpaio and accepted Trump’s pardon. In a blistering 14-page ruling, she held off on ruling on Arpaio’s request to throw out all orders in the case.
- Mother Jones reported 10-months in, Trump still hasn’t appointed someone to the job of National Protection and Programs Directorate, a position charged with protecting our elections from cyberattacks.
- In a letter to the WH, Cummings, the top democrat of the House Oversight Committee, asked Kellyanne Conway, known to have traveled with Price, to provide documentation related to all her non-commercial flights.
- Reuters reported Energy Sec. Perry took a charter flight from PA to OH the day before Price resigned. Commercial alternatives were available.
- WAPO reported Transportation Sec. Chao used government planes seven times including days trip to cities within an hour of DC, as well as for trips to France and Italy which cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
- NYT reported Mnuchin traveled on military jets seven times at a cost of more than $800k. The investigation by the OMB found while he broke no laws, Mnuchin gave loose justifications for the costly flights.
- Donald Jr. has delivered several speeches, earning as much as $100k per speech. His speeches raise ethics violation and conflict of interest concerns, especially as related to access to the WH.
- Trump’s Interior Dept. rejected 25 petitions to list a variety of species as endangered or threatened, including several linked to climate change. Trump has yet to nominate a director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
- In response to a FOIA lawsuit, the Secret Service said it does not have a complete Mar-a-Lago visitor log. All the Secret Service has turned over so far is a one-page listing of 22 Japanese officials.
- Joel Clement, an Interior Dept. executive turned whistleblower who claimed the Trump regime retaliated against him for disclosing how climate change affects Alaska Native communities, resigned Wednesday.
- Guardian reported, in what may be a watershed case, US professor David Carroll is suing Cambridge Analytica in British Courts to ask for his personal data back. UK law allows for such requests, unlike US law.
- On Monday, Facebook shared that Russia purchased $100k worth of ads which reached about 10M Americans. More than half the ads were seen after the election, indicating Russia continues to meddle in US politics.
- WAPO reported on research by social media analyst Jonathan Albright which found Russian propaganda on Facebook may have been viewed by hundreds of millions, perhaps many billions.
- WSJ reported after internal debate, Facebook decided to scrap mention of Russia in a public report released on April 27 about manipulation of its platform during the 2016 election.
- Instead, in a significantly shortened report, Facebook blamed “malicious actors.” It is unclear how much Facebook knew at the time. Not until September 6 did Facebook identify Russia as the source of interference.
- Fast Company reported that after finding suspicious accounts on Instagram and calling Facebook to confirm, Facebook updated its blog post to clarify about 150 political ads sold to Russia showed up on Instagram.
- CNN reported Russian operatives targeted MI and WI with Facebook ads. Some of the ads were highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal.
- Trump won both states by under 1%: MI by 10.7k of 4.8M votes cast and WI by 22.7k votes. Congressional investigators want to know if Russia had any assistance from the Trump campaign.
- WSJ reported on the most significant security breaches in years: in 2015 Russian hackers stole NSA data. The breach could enable Russia to evade NSA surveillance and infiltrate US networks.
- The breach is the first confirmed time Kaspersky software was exploited by Russian hackers. As noted in Week 34, Kaspersky was trained at a KGB-sponsored technical school and worked in Russian military intelligence.
- Politico reported Trump loyalists are losing patience with multiple, continuing congressional Russia probes, saying they have distracted from his agenda and allowed Democrats to question the legitimacy of his win.
- WAPO said these loyalists are pushing Republicans chairing committees to wrap up their investigations and make the scandal disappear. An interim press briefing by Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Mark Warner on Wednesday was cited as an example.
- Burr and Warner said they concurred with US intel’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. They also said the issue of collusion is still open.
- Burr and Warner also detailed some threads of investigations including Russian efforts on social media, the April 2016 meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, and changes to the Republican Party platform.
- Burr said they had “hit a wall” with the Steele dossier because the author would not meet with them. On Thursday, Rachel Maddow reported that Christopher Steele is open to meeting with the Senate Intel Committee.
- On Wednesday, Reuters reported Mueller has taken over FBI inquiries into the Steele dossier as part of the special counsel’s Russia probe.
- On Thursday, CNN reported Mueller’s team met with Steele this past summer. The broad assertion of the dossier, that Russia waged a campaign to interfere in the election, is now accepted by US intel.
- The CIA and FBI took Steele’s research seriously enough they chose not to include it in the publicly released January report on Russian interference to avoid divulging the parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.
- Three Russian owners of Alfa Bank, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan, sued Fusion GPS and its founder, claiming their reputations were unfairly tattered by the dossier. The three sued BuzzFeed in Week 28.
- Mother Jones reported Sen. Ron Wyden of the Senate Intel Committee does not concur with Burr’s statement that he can say certifiably there was no voter tampering. Wyden also questioned Burr’s handling of the investigation.
- Daily Beast reported the Senate Judiciary Committee is not investigating Russian interference, but engaging in routine oversight of the DOJ. Sources include a staffer for Grassley, Republican chair of the committee.
- WAPO reported Michael Cohen turned over documents to Congressional investigators and Mueller related to two, previously undisclosed contacts with Russians. These contacts are not related to Trump Tower Moscow.
- Cohen and a business associate emailed weeks before the Republican National Convention, about Cohen traveling to an economic conference in Russia attended by Putin and his top financial and government leaders.
- Cohen also received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a Russian billionaire who once served in the Russian parliament. Cohen maintains he never traveled to Russia.
- Foreign Policy reported in a previously undisclosed meeting: Rep. Rohrabacher met with Veselnitskaya in Moscow two months prior to the infamous June 9 meeting with Donald Jr.
- Politico reported Trump lawyer Ty Cobb is putting the finishing touches on launching a legal defense fund to help mid-level WH staffers cover their legal costs related to Mueller’s Russia probe.
- Newsweek reported Robert Mercer, Bannon-ally and part owner of Cambridge Analytica, donated $200k to the Republican Party legal defense fund the day Trump fired Comey.
- The Atlantic revealed emails between Manafort and Kilimnik referenced in the WAPO story in Week 45. The emails suggest Manafort was extremely eager to please Russian oligarch Deripaska, and to get made whole.
- Kilimnik met Manafort on August 2 in NYC. Emails prior reference important messages about the “future of his country.” Days before, Trump said “Wouldn’t it be a great thing if we could get along with Russia?”
- After Tillerson said Saturday he was reaching out to Pyongyang in hopes of starting a new dialogue, Trump undercut him Sunday tweeting, “I told [Rex] he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”
- NBC reported Tillerson almost resigned this past summer after Trump’s Boy Scout speech. Days before that speech, Tillerson referred to Trump as a “moron” in a meeting with national security and Cabinet officials.
- After the report, Tillerson pulled together an impromptu news conference to publicly praise Trump. Bob Schieffer described it as, “not like a news conference, it was more like a hostage tape.”
- Sen. Bob Corker, a Trump ally during the campaign who is retiring, in a harsh rebuke of Trump, said Kelly, Mattis and Tillerson are the are the “people that help separate our country from chaos.”
- The New Yorker reported shortly after Tillerson was confirmed, he met Trump at the WH, and Trump “began fulminating about federal laws that prohibit American businesses from bribing officials overseas.”
- On Friday, for the first time in seven years, the US economy lost jobs. Expectation for September were to add 80k jobs; however, 33k jobs were lost. Job totals from July and August were also downwardly revised.
- On Thursday, at a dinner surrounded by military leaders and their spouses at the WH, Trump warned this is “the calm before the storm.” What he meant was unknown by even members of his staff.
- The mystery around his pronouncement continued on Friday when he was asked about the statement and responded, “you’ll find out,” then winked.
- A September AP-NORC poll showed Trump reaching his lowest approval yet: 32% approve, 67% disapprove. Trump’s approval among Republicans fell to 67%.
- The poll also found just 24% think the country is headed in the right direction, 26% believe Trump is a strong leader, 23% view him as honest, and 16% say he is level-headed.
- One year after the infamous “Access Hollywood” video went public, women’s advocacy group UltraViolet playing the footage, looping again and again, on a large screen on the Mall in DC for 12 hours straight.
- ProPublica reported Ivanka and Donald Jr. were close to being charged for a felony fraud in 2012 for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo. Their partners were Russians Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif.
- Kasowitz contributed $25k to Manhattan DA Vance before a sit-down, and later donated $32k. The case was dropped. Felix Sater is a frequent subject of The Weekly List, including involvement with Trump Tower Moscow.
- Breaking from the advice of Tillerson and Mattis, Trump is expected to decertify the landmark deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has not breached the accord, but instead Trump claims the “spirit” of the deal.
- HuffPost reported the Trump regime is preparing repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era climate change policy which limits greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Trump has called the policy, “stupid.”
- Almost three weeks after Hurricane Maria, as just 12% of Puerto Rico had electricity and 55% drinking water, on Saturday morning, Trump made his 69th trip to a Trump golf course of his 260 days in office.
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