Week 60: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

January 6, 2018

This week, as a new book by Michael Wolff on Trump’s White House dominated the news cycle, a myriad of important news stories and alarming actions and trends went largely unnoticed. Wolff’s book confirmed much of what has been speculated about Trump’s mental health and competence for the job, and left many new threads to be explored.

This week Republicans have largely united in their efforts to undermine the Russia probe, and congressional committees continued to implode, save for the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sessions, whose job as AG is again in danger, heeded Trump’s repeated call to investigate his political opponents. Resignations and chaos continued at Trump’s WH, as well as at federal agencies, which despite lacking leadership and staffing, continue to roll back regulations, rights and protections. Mueller’s probe continues to broaden and deepen, this week for the first time drawing in Ivanka.

  1. CNN reported trees were planted at Trump’s golf course in Florida where a cameraman in Week 59 had tried to get footage of Trump golfing. After saying he was getting back to work, Trump golfed seven consecutive days.
  2. According to a NBC News tally, Trump’s New Year’s Day golf-round was his 91st day at a Trump golf course, and 117th day at a Trump property in his first 349 days in office.
  3. Politico reported tickets for Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve party increased to $600 for members and $750 for guests, up from $525 and $575 last year. Trump attended the party, allowing attendees potential access.
  4. Trump sent a divisive tweet to usher in the New Year, addressed to “friends, supporters, enemies, haters, and even the very dishonest Fake News Media,” adding “2018 will be a great year for America!”
  5. During 2017, Trump also tweeted to his “enemies” and “haters” on Easter, Thanksgiving and September 11.
  6. On Monday, Trump attacked Pakistan, tweeting that despite US aid, the country has “given us nothing but lies & deceit.” The WH said it would withhold $225 million of aid. Pakistan convened an emergency government meeting.
  7. On Tuesday, after giving them an exclusive interview in Week 59, Trump ripped the NYT warning its new head to hire reporters “of a much higher standard,” and to treat him ‘’fairly” or risk their reputation.
  8. On Tuesday, in a tweet, Trump said the “Deep State Justice Department must finally act” on “Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin” as well as on “Comey & others.”
  9. Seemingly heeding Trump’s repeated request, the FBI started to actively investigate the Clinton Foundation over allegations donors were promised policy favors or special access to Hillary as Secretary of State.
  10. Daily Beast reported the Department of Justice is also taking a fresh look at Hillary’s use of a private email server while SoS, focusing on what classified information was sent and the immunity agreements that Clinton aides may have made.
  11. Also on Tuesday, Trump took credit for being “very strict” on commercial aviation and there being “ZERO deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!” There has not been a fatal US passenger airline crash since 2009.
  12. Also on Tuesday, Trump tweeted, then deleted, a tweet urging his followers to watch Sean Hannity’s show “tonight at 9:00 P.M.” CREW pointed out Trump used his official platform to promote a TV show.
  13. Trump ally Sheriff David Clarke was temporarily blocked on Twitter after sending tweets calling for violence against the liberal media, including “Punch them in the nose & MAKE THEM TASTE THEIR OWN BLOOD.”
  14. Clarke will face trial on January 22 over an incident at Milwaukee’s Mitchell airport last year, for retaliating against Daniel Black on Facebook: if I “were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”
  15. At his New Year’s address, Kim Jong-un said the US should know North Korea’s nuclear force is a reality, saying he has a “button for nuclear weapons” on his table, and “the entire area of the U.S. mainland” is within striking range. He struck a conciliatory note with South Korea, however.
  16. On Tuesday, Trump responded to Kim’s threat, tweeting that my nuclear button “is a much bigger & more powerful one” and that “my Button works!” The escalation of rhetoric alarmed many on both sides.
  17. When asked by reporters about Trump’s tweet, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday Trump “speaks for himself.”
  18. North Korea accepted an offer from South Korea to meet for peace talks, the first official contact in two years. Like the situation with Israel and Palestine, Trump’s actions have removed the US from a leadership role in diplomacy.
  19. The CDC scheduled a briefing for later this month on how to plan and prepare for a nuclear detonation, citing “Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness.”
  20. Jan Morgan, who gained national attention in 2014 for declaring her gun range a “Muslim Free Zone,” and who served as a national spokesperson for Citizens for Trump, announced her candidacy for governor of Arkansas.
  21. On Wednesday, Washington state AG Bob Ferguson sued Motel 6, saying the hotel chain disclosed information on at least 9,150 guests to ICE, including names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and license-plate numbers.
  22. In Week 44, Phoenix New Times reported on a Motel 6 in a predominantly Latino neighborhood sharing its guest list with ICE. Following a public outcry, Motel 6 had said the company would stop sharing lists with ICE.
  23. The OR Court of Appeals upheld a $135K fine against Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery for refusing to bake a wedding cake for two lesbians. Sessions’ DoJ filed a brief in support of bakers in CO for the same offense.
  24. The Trump regime has until Monday to decide whether to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for about 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the US since at least 2001.
  25. The White House and DHS have signaled for months they intend to end TPS protection as a matter of principle. In Week 52, protections were cut off for 5,300 Nicaraguans and extended for six months for 57,000 Hondurans.
  26. WAPO reported on Trump shrinking down federal agencies. As of September, all cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and Interior have fewer employees than in January 2017 when Trump took office.
  27. Trump’s WH, which proposed funding cuts of 30% at some agencies for 2018, warned about deeper cuts in the 2019 budget. The president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said “morale has never been lower.”
  28. Trump has also been far slower than his predecessors make appointments for key leadership roles in the executive branch, with just 240 of 624 positions that require Senate confirmation filled so far.
  29. Trump is expected to pick Thomas Brunell to run the 2020 Census, a job typically held by nonpartisan civil servants. Picking Brunell, a deeply partisan professor with no government experience, is causing alarm.
  30. The Federal Transit Administration notified New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that the Trump regime is canceling the Obama administration’s commitment to fund 50% of a multibillion-dollar tunnel connecting NJ to Penn Station.
  31. WV Public Broadcasting reported the total number of US coal mining fatalities almost doubled in 2017, reaching 15, up from 8 in 2016.
  32. On Wednesday, Sessions used executive authority to name seventeen interim US Attorneys. Seven of the appointed attorneys have reached the 300-day limit on the role they’d been serving as acting attorney, and the remainder will replace other acting attorneys. In March 2017 Trump fired dozens of attorneys general.
  33. Sessions appointed Geoffrey Berman, a law partner of Rudy Giuliani, as interim US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the district where Trump lives and the Trump Organization operates.
  34. In Week 50, Trump personally interviewed Berman and candidates for the Eastern District and the District of Columbia. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the appointment, “absolutely abhorrent to the rule of law.”
  35. NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she found it “deeply disturbing” that Trump had interviewed Berman, saying it raises concerns about Berman’s independence. Gillibrand said she would oppose a Berman nomination.
  36. On Wednesday, Trump signed an order disbanding his Election Integrity Commission amid infighting, lawsuits and state officials’ refusal to cooperate. Trump still claims 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016.
  37. The commission’s controversial vice-chair Kris Kobach described the decision as a “tactical change,” arguing the DHS can pursue an investigation of election fraud more quickly and efficiently.
  38. On Thursday, the Trump regime unveiled a draft of a controversial proposal which would permit drilling in most US continental-shelf waters, including protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic.
  39. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said, “This is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance.” The plan, which will open 47 potential areas where companies can buy leases, was cheered by oil and gas industry groups.
  40. Governors from both parties immediately spoke out against the plan, saying oil drilling should not be allowed off their coast.
  41. Offshore drilling led to one of the worst environmental disasters in US history, Deepwater Horizon. Sen. Bill Nelson said he would try to use the Congressional Review Act put in place after that oil spill to try to block the plan.
  42. WAPO reported Congressional Republicans quietly allowed a tax on oil companies of 9 cents-per-barrel, that generated an average of $500 million annually for federal oil-spill response efforts, to expire this week.
  43. Trump’s HUD announced in a notice published Friday that it will delay enforcement of an Obama-era federal housing rule that requires communities to address patterns of racial residential segregation.
  44. HUD’s notice said the delay is necessary to give local communities technical assistance. Advocates fear the Trump regime will entirely undo the rule, which HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Republicans in Congress are against.
  45. On Thursday, Sessions rescinded Obama-era rules which stopped the federal government from interfering with marijuana-friendly state laws. Sessions said future prosecutions would be up individual US attorneys.
  46. Gary Cohn told Bloomberg a Senate bill to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act to exempt small and mid-size banks from the most stringent rules would “hopefully” hit the floor in January and pass the House in the first quarter.
  47. IBT reported, according to corporate documents, Goldman Sachs moved to block an initiative brought forward by its shareholders to force the company’s executives to disclose their efforts to influence politicians.
  48. WSJ examined millions of public comments on federal regulations, and found thousands of fraudulent comments in hot button areas like net neutrality and payday lending, favoring an anti-regulation stance.
  49. The WSJ contacted a random sample of 2,757 people whose emails were used to post 818,000 comments, and 72% said they had nothing to do with the comments posted using their email address.
  50. Fake comments were found on FCC, FERC, CFPB, and SEC websites. A spokesperson for the FCC said the agency received more than 400,000 comments “from the same address in Russia.”
  51. Politico reported WH aides are anxious about 2018. The WH has already faced a brain drain with more departures expected in the coming year. At the same time, the WH is having trouble recruiting top talent.
  52. Working in the shadow of the Mueller probe and heading into what will very likely be punishing midterms for Republicans, aides expect limited prospects of accomplishing any major legislation.
  53. Aides also fear the wrath of Trump, and his dark moods as the Mueller probe progresses, and Trump realizes it is not coming to a quick end as his attorneys have been promising.
  54. WAPO reported Rep. Devin Nunes’s targeting of Mueller and the FBI, after Nunes was cleared of allegations of disclosing confidential information in December, is alarming Democrats and even some of his Republican allies.
  55. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee also say Nunes is rushing to shut the committee down and absolve Trump, and has in the meantime squashed their attempts to subpoena key figures including Sessions and Donald Jr.
  56. On Wednesday, Rod Rosenstein and Chris Wray made an unannounced visit to the office of Speaker Paul Ryan, reportedly to discuss requests issued over the summer by House Intelligence Committee chair Nunes.
  57. The investigative documents Nunes subpoenaed are related to the Steele dossier, and are considered sensitive by the FBI and are rarely released or shared outside the bureau.
  58. On Thursday, CNN reported that Ryan backed Nunes, and an agreement was reached to allow House Intelligence Committee members to view the documents at the DoJ, but not taken from DoJ or FBI possession.
  59. CNN reported Trump’s lawyers met with Mueller’s team a few days before Christmas. Despite earlier statements, Trump’s lawyers are no longer putting a date on when the investigation will end.
  60. On Thursday, NYT reported Trump instructed Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself from the DoJ Trump-Russia probe, saying he needed his AG to protect him. Trump reportedly said, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
  61. Mueller’s team is aware of this interaction, and has also received handwritten notes from Priebus, which say Trump told him he had called Comey to urge him to publicly say that he was not under investigation.
  62. NYT also reported Uttam Dhillon, one of McGahn’s deputies, misled Trump about his ability to fire Comey because he was convinced if Trump did, the DoJ would open an investigation into Trump derailing the probe.
  63. NBC News further reported that not only McGahn, but also multiple other WH officials tried to talk Sessions out of recusing himself from the Russia probe. Trump reportedly was behind these efforts.
  64. Counting Trump’s efforts to try to prevent Sessions’ recusal, WAPO counted a total of eight times Trump took heavy-handed actions in an effort to try to end the Russia probe.
  65. Four days before Comey was fired, an aide to Sessions asked a Capitol Hill staffer for derogatory information about Comey. Reportedly, Sessions wanted one negative article per day in the media about Comey.
  66. In an op-ed, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, founders of Fusion GPS, expressed frustration that their 21 hours of congressional testimony has not been made public, while Republicans selectively leak pieces of it.
  67. Simpson and Fritsch say the dossier did not give rise to the FBI investigation. They also suggested congress look into Trump’s bank records at Deutsche Bank, and property sales with laundered money.
  68. They said Steele’s investigation revealed the Kremlin helped elect Trump. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the FBI, which he did without involvement of Fusion or its clients.
  69. CNN reported the House Intelligence Committee probe is likely to break down along partisan lines, with the two sides likely to issue competing reports with vastly different conclusions on the Russia investigation.
  70. Paul Manafort sued Mueller and asked a federal court to narrow the special counsel’s authority, arguing Mueller has gone too far. The suit is part of a pattern of Republicans seeking to discredit the Mueller investigation.
  71. On Friday, Sen Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham sent the committee’s first criminal referral to the DoJ, suggesting they investigate dossier author Steele for possibly lying to the FBI.
  72. The letter is part of Republicans’ growing chorus of challenges to the credibility of the FBI, asserting the dossier is being used by the FBI as a weapon in a political smear campaign.
  73. CNN reported the Trump Organization gave Mueller documents on a range of events, conversations, and meetings that took place between June 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy, and January 2017.
  74. Investigators also received documents about Donald Jr.’s paid speech to a Russia-friendly think tank in Paris shortly before the 2016 election, and Trump’s foreign policy speech in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel, which Sergey Kislyak attended. George Papadopoulos helped edit Trump’s speech.
  75. The Trump Org also turned over documents about Sergei Millian, a Russian-American businessman who has had contacts with Trump’s team over the years, and according to WAPO, could be a source in the dossier.
  76. On Friday, the FBI published internal documents on their website which show, contrary to Trump’s assertions, Andrew McCabe had no conflicts when he assumed oversight of the Clinton investigation in February 2016. His wife lost her bid for a VA senate seat three months prior.
  77. LA Times reported Mueller’s team is calling back at least one participant from the June 9 Trump Tower meeting, possibly as part of investigating obstruction of justice by Trump for his role in Donald Jr.’s statement.
  78. Investigators are also exploring Ivanka’s involvement. Although she did not attend the June 9 meeting, she did speak to Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin on the elevator as they were leaving the building.
  79. In Wolff’s book, Steve Bannon is cited as speculating that Donald Jr. brought the Russians up to meet Trump: “The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”
  80. AP reported despite Trump frequently evoking Chicago in racist ways as an example of uncontrolled violence, the city actually saw a drop in homicides from 771 in 2016 to 650 in 2017.
  81. Trump became the first US leader in 40 years not to visit Canada in his first calendar year in office.
  82. On Wednesday, the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized Wilbur Ross’s decision to impose lumber duties, calling them “unfair, unwarranted and troubling,” and vowed to fight the US action.
  83. The US trade deficit ballooned to the highest level in almost six years.
  84. On Wednesday, two Democrats were sworn into the Senate, cutting the Republicans edge to 51–49. Doug Jones was the winner of AL’s special election for Sessions’ seat, and Tina Smith of MN after Franken resigned.
  85. The home of Tina Johnson, who publicly accused Roy Moore of groping her, was destroyed in a fire on Wednesday. An investigation into possible arson is underway.
  86. On Tuesday, four months after rescinding DACA, Trump attacked Democrats tweeting, “Democrats are doing nothing for DACA,” adding Hispanics will be “falling in love” with him and Republicans for results.
  87. Republicans and Democrats worked on a DACA compromise, but remained divided over Trump’s insistence on getting funding to build his Wall on the border of Mexico.
  88. On Friday, the Trump regime asked Congress to set aside $18 billion over 10 years to build his Wall, and provided the most detailed description yet of a 700-mile barrier to Mexico.
  89. Newsweek reported on a short-supply of IV bags on the US mainland because the bags are manufactured in Puerto Rico at a factory still damaged by Hurricane Maria.
  90. On Wednesday, news broke of an explosive new book by Michael Wolff. Among the early headlines were Bannon describing Donald Jr.’s June 9 Trump Tower meeting with Russians as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
  91. Wolff also asserts in Fire and Fury that Trump didn’t expect or want to win the election, and was totally unprepared to staff the WH and for what came next, explaining in part why Bannon had so much power at the start.
  92. Also from Wolff’s book, when Hope Hicks expressed concern to Trump and sons about Corey Lewandowski’s treatment by the media, Trump responded, “You’ve already done enough for him. You’re the best piece of tail he’ll ever have.”
  93. Also on women, Trump allegedly called Sally Yates “such a cunt” for blocking his request; Melania allegedly cried on Election Day and Kellyanne Conway didn’t think Trump would win; and Ivanka fancies herself as the first woman president.
  94. According to the book, Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for Trump’s legal team, resigned after the Air Force One trip where Trump crafted Donald Jr.’s June 9 meeting response, fearing it represented obstruction of justice.
  95. Bloomberg reported former deputy WH chief of staff Katie Walsh may be fired from a pro-Trump political group and the RNC for comments in the book that working with Trump is “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”
  96. On Wednesday, Trump issued a written statement lambasting Bannon, saying Bannon “has nothing to do with me or my presidency” and after being fired, Bannon has “lost his mind.”
  97. On Thursday, WSJ reported Robert and Rebekah Mercer are distancing themselves from Bannon. Also, they and other Breitbart News Network LLC board members were discussing ousting Bannon as chairman.
  98. NYT reported the Mercers have also cut off funding for Bannon’s personal protective detail. Ties to Bannon are cited as one of the reason’s Robert Mercer was forced to step down from running Renaissance Technologies.
  99. Late Wednesday, Trump’s attorney sent Bannon a cease and desist letter demanding he refrain from making disparaging comments against Trump and his family.
  100. Trump tweeted that Wolff had “zero access to the White House” and the book is “Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist.” Politifact rated Trump’s claim that Wolff didn’t have access as false.
  101. Axios reported that Wolff has dozens of hours of interview tapes to back up his book. Wolff also spent hours at a time in private areas of the West Wing, including Reince Priebus’ office.
  102. In an excerpt published in New York Magazine, Wolff said he conducted “more than 200 interviews” over a period of 18 months with Trump, most members of his senior staff, and many people who they spoke to.
  103. On Thursday, Trump attorney Charles Harder sent a letter to Wolff and his publisher, Henry Holt, demanding the publisher “cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of the book.
  104. Henry Holt moved up the release date of the book by four days, from January 9 to January 5 “due to unprecedented demand.” The publisher acknowledged receiving the letter, but proceeded with publication.
  105. The contents in Wolff’s book confirmed many of the suspicions, or as one journalists called it, the “open secret,” about Trump’s temperament, mental health and incompetence — and the chaos of his White House.
  106. Politico reported that concerned lawmakers invited Yale University psychiatry professor Dr. Bandy X. Lee to Capitol Hill for two days in December to testify about Trump’s mental health.
  107. Lee reportedly told the Democrats and one Republican senator, “We feel that the rush of tweeting is an indication of his falling apart under stress.” Concern grew about Trump’s fitness to serve after his tweet to Kim Jong-un.
  108. Wolff wrote in his op-ed on Trump, “Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes.”
  109. Wolff also claimed at Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a “heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.”
  110. Hoda Kotb was named co-anchor of NBC’s “Today” show, as NBC replaced disgraced Matt Lauer. This marks the first time a pair of women will co-anchor the show.
  111. Out Smart reported at least 42 openly LGBTQ Texans are running for office in 2018, roughly three-times the number in any previous cycle.
  112. On Thursday, citing security concerns and leaks, Trump’s WH banned staff from using personal mobile phones while at work. Kelly imposed the ban, which had was previously announced, but now will be enacted.
  113. Roger Stone retroactively registered as a lobbyist for Capstone Financial Group, a venture capital firm seeking to invest in commodities in Somalia. Stone’s work began May 1, 2017, and the deadline to register is 45 days.
  114. Recode reported FCC chair Ajit Pai canceled his scheduled appearances at 2018 International CES, a major tech industry trade show, because according to sources, he has received death threats.
  115. McClatchy reported foreign governments are finding ways to give the Trump Organization business in order to curry favor with Trump, possibly in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
  116. Trump’s name is on resorts and golf courses in over two dozen countries. McClatchy cited conflicts of interest involving Indonesia, Panama, Uruguay, India, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
  117. Politico reported Kushner, who has an extensive international portfolio, is very dismissive about the role of international institutions and alliances, reportedly saying “I’m a businessman, and I don’t care about the past.”
  118. Politico also reported on infighting in the Trump regime on foreign policy, leading to a high level of dysfunction. High level officials have not been able to tame Trump or get him to adhere to consistent policy.
  119. WAPO reported Trump has made 1,950 false or misleading claims in his first 347 days of office, averaging 5.6 per day.
  120. BuzzFeed reported Peter Thiel, working with the Mercers, is exploring setting up a conservative cable news network to compete with Fox News. Thiel had originally enlisted Roger Ailes to help, according to Wolff’s book.
  121. At Thursday’s press briefing, Trump addressed the press about the tax bill, but rather than walk down the hall to do it in person, the message was delivered via a video displayed on screens behind press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
  122. Pence lost two more senior aides as Mark Paoletta and Daris Meeks, his chief lawyer and domestic policy director, resigned. This follows the recent departure of Pence’s chief of staff and press secretary.
  123. National Security Agency director Mike Rogers announced he plans to retire this spring. Rogers said he hopes to have his successor named and confirmed this month.
  124. Senior Treasury official Shannon McGahn announced her resignation, becoming the first high-profile departure from the department. Shannon is the wife of Don McGahn, the chief WH counsel.
  125. Twitter announced Friday that world leaders like Trump have special status on the social media network, and blocking a world leader “would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”
  126. This weekend, Trump is hosting a retreat at Camp David for congressional leaders and members of his cabinet, allegedly to discuss 2018 legislative priorities. Noticeably, Sessions was excluded from the weekend.
  127. On Friday, Politico reported Scott Pruitt has told friends and associates he is interested in the job of attorney general. Pruitt was invited to the Camp David retreat.
  128. Late Friday, Trump attacked Bannon and Wolff again, tweeting “Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories” to sell his book, and used “Sloppy Steve Bannon who cried when he got fired and begged for his job.”
  129. On Saturday morning, Trump continued his pushback on the book’s assertions about his mental health and competence, tweeting he’s “like, really smart” and a “very stable genius.”
  130. Trump also tweeted Russian collusion after a year of study is a “total hoax” by “the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media.”

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) (L) participates in a mock swearing-in ceremony with Vice President Mike Pence (R) as Jones’ wife Louise (3rd L) and son Carson (2nd L) look on at the Old Senate Chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. Carson, who is gay, gave a noticeable stare at Pence, who is an outspoken homophobe.
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