Bearing Witness to Trump Month 13

January 28 – February 3, 2018

After 15 years of trying to occupy tribal Afghanistan the country is still rocked weekly by bombers who kill hundreds of civilians. It is so unsafe that American troops don’t even travel by road in the capital, but use helicopters to move around. The ignorance of history and hubris of the White House and U.S. Military in thinking we can ever pacify this country continues on from administration to administration. No one has the courage to say enough is enough. Instead, Trump is sending in more token troops. Yes, of course, a few thousand more troops will turn the tide.

The Congressional Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee release a top secret memo that of course they alone wrote! The memo alleges that the FBI was biased in its investigation of the Trump Russian connection. The President uses it to go on the attack once again of the Justice Department and House Committees with a vindictiveness rarely even seen in a sitting President. It is clear that they are setting up the cover for Trump to fire the special prosecutor and to claim the whole thing was a witch hunt. With such smoke there must be quite the fire. His ire takes another civil servant with the early departure of Andrew McCabe from the FBI.

Of all people the director of the CDC resigns after it was revealed that she bought stocks in tobacco companies and pharmaceuticals after taking office. The disregard of ethical behavior among Trump appointees is unbelievable. The fact that it never crosses their mind that there might be a conflict of interest is beyond comprehension. But it shouldn’t be as most of Trump’s appointees come from a career of enriching themselves, and certainly not a career of public service for the greater good. Ironically, the new HHS Director that fired Fitzgerald was a former executive at Eli Lilly. And of course he replaced Trump’s first pick for HHS who had issues of their own for lavish use of flying around the country at taxpayer’s expense.

A diplomat nominated for Ambassador to South Korea who voiced opposition to Trump’s threat to use military action first to attack North Korea was shown the door with the forced withdrawal of his nomination. So in the most volatile peninsula in the world we have no acting ambassador. Reports have surfaced that the White House is growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of better preemptive strike plans from the military. It’s all very predictable that should Mueller find reason to indict the President, or Congress threaten a constitutional crisis if he fires Mueller, that Trump would bake up a war to distract the nation and rally the public behind him.

A Washington Post report counted over 2,000 falsehoods, exaggerations, and lies coming from the administration in its first year in office. Trump’s State of the Union address continues the carnage on truth with numerous distortions and misstatements. The next day Trump tweets about the size of the audience as being the largest ever, and of course it was not. Trump lies with such ease I wonder why anyone would watch his address or believe a word that comes out of his mouth. As example, during the election he promised a huge investment in U.S. infrastructure. In the address he called for spending $1.5 trillion dollars. But wait, there’s more and some pesky details. That of course is OPM – other people’s money – which Trump knows all so well how to exploit. That is investment from states, where Republicans are decimating budgets, and the private sector. just like the promise fighting the opioid crisis it’s all words and lies with no budget much less organizations empowered to act. In the address he talked about the threat of immigrants coming into our country across the border, and the need of a big expensive wall. But never a word about Russians invading our country’s elections across digital borders.

Around the world strong armed autocrats have felt embolden by Trump’s failure to call them out for human rights violations. Russia, Philippines, Turkey, and Egypt are the most prominent examples where rarely is a negative word ever said about their crackdown on democratic processes including the free press, free elections, and other human rights.

Despite a new law from Congress that required sanctions be placed on Russia for interfering in our 2016 elections, the Trump administration has done nothing. How a patriot much less a conservative President could put up with the intervention of Russia or any foreign state in U.S. elections is beyond us. We were attacked, and the administration has done nothing but defend and lie about their relationships with the Russians.

Trump ends the week with what else, blaming the Democrats on immigration, the DACA program, not being civil at the State of the Union address, and not being jubilant about tax cuts. Other Republicans claim that the Democrats just are not going to do anything in order to obstruct Trump’s progress. Hum, I wonder where did they learn to do that? Could it have been the 8 years of Obama’s administration where Republicans would not compromise or work collaboratively to address the nation’s many needs?

February 4 – 10, 2018

More and more people are calling Trump out as being on the road to an authoritarian regime leading to an autocracy. He has now checked ,many of the boxes of the commonly accepted traits of aspiring dictators and despots. He attacks, threatens, demeans, slanders and delegitimize democratic institutions, the free press, opposition parties, institutional norms, the judiciary, demands total loyalty, fires those who don’t show it, uses the state for his personal gains, likes his name on everything, places his family members in high positions, escapes to lavish resorts most weekends, uses rallies to enrage his base, fuels political divides, threatens those who speak out against him with law suits, shows his admiration for other despots and authoritarian leaders around the world with no criticisms, and fantasizes the power of the military and law and order while acting like he is above the law. Then of course reports come out that the White House is said to be looking at a big military parade in the nation’s capital. God help us.

This week he blames the Democrats who sat on their hands at the recent state of the union address as being “treasonous”.

Multiple White House staff members resign this week after reports that they abused their former wives. Trump comes to their defense and says they his former staff members are being unfairly attacked in accusations of domestic abuse, even after photos are produced. Yes, that is the norm of this administration to always blame the victims, never the perpetrator. Apparently their jobs required security clearances for which they were unable to get because of their abusive past, yet it seemed that they continued to serve in the White House handling classified materials without the clearance. The WH does what it does best under Trump and lies about the timeline of who knew what when. Even Chief of Staff John Kelly comes to their defense, then later retracts his support and offers his resignation, and probably was hoping that Trump would accept it. Rumors float that Trump is already looking at new names. Kelly erodes any remaining respect from the public at large when he said this week that some dreamer immigrants “were too lazy to get off their ass”.

Trump says multiple times this week that a government shutdown would be a very good thing for the country and he would love to see it. Then his press secretary lies some more and says he was just joking about it and not serious. They have no shame.

The White House decides not to declassify a Democrat written memo from the Intelligence Committee a week after they said it was ok to release the Republican memo.

The number three official at the Justice Dept. abruptly resigned this past week to take a job in the private sector. She would have been in line to fire Mueller once the President gets the second in command Rosenstein out of the way. She must know what is to come and wanted no part of it.

A government shutdown is averted with agreement on a massive spending bill that raises federal spending by $400M and will create a deficit next year of nearly a trillion dollars, the largest since Obama had to bail out the auto industry and excesses of financial markets gone unregulated during the Bush administration. And of course Trump’s military gets a 10% increase to over $700B. It was only $350B in 2002. Where are all the conservative Republicans who constantly railed against deficit spending when a Democrat was in office? They are such hypocrites. Only Republican Senator Rand Paul had the courage to speak up and tell the truth calling his colleagues exactly that, hypocrites.

The Democrats were had again, as the promised discussion of immigration and DACA on the floor never happened before this the second shutdown in the past two months.

Professional Wall Street investors understand what a $1 trillion dollar deficit means in the way of borrowing costs and inflation, and stock markets take their biggest point drop in history, over 1000 points across several days.

Vice President Pence is seated in front of the North Korean delegation at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics that includes the sister of North Korean leader Jong Un. But he shuns any introduction or conversation with them. Way to treat an Asian culture as disgraceful formalities like this are seen as hostile acts. Pence goes on and on about North Korean atrocities where political prisoners are held in gulags without judicial protection. Can he say Guantanamo? This administration is so itching for an armed conflict to distract attention away from the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties. They appear to be so stalled that North and South Korea are talking with each other without the US..

Trump’s nomination to Chair the Council on Environmental Policy was, of course, like all other Trump’s picks; from the polluting industry she was now all of the sudden suppose to help regulate. She was an advocate of fossil fuel use, a skeptic of climate change, and of course had no scientific background to lead a council with a scientific charter. In one of the few good pieces of news in months, her nomination was withdrawn.

Trump’s nominee to head the IRS continues the theme of giving power over an agency to those who want to dismantle it. He has sued the agency multiple times over his career as a tax lawyer, and defended the President’s right not to release his tax returns, unlike all previous modern-history presidents.

February 11 – 17, 2018

The scandals in the Trump White House continue this week as Trump defends two members of his staff recently fired over spousal abuse allegations. He cites that their lives have been shattered; no not the victims but those of the abusers he is referring to. Never a word of empathy is said about the spouses. Meanwhile Trump’s apologists keep revising the time line for who knew what when, and of course did nothing. Apparently dozens of White House aides have had lengthy interim clearances while their real clearances were held up. All the while they had access to confidential and classified information.

Trump reveals his new plan for infrastructure which he has been grandizing since the election. It’s trillion dollar plan, but not for the federal government. Trump does what Trump does best, lie and exploit other people’s money and ignorance. It’s only $200B with the rest to come from states and local government. And since many of these states are under Republican control, they are too busy cutting taxes and gutting public spending to have any capacity to spend on improving infrastructure. Of course Trump knows that, so that will give him someone to blame when it does not happen.

Never to miss an opportunity to degrade the environment, as part of the non-infrastructure package Trump calls for “streamlining” permitting process. That means wrecking environmental protections that have been fought for over five decades. Trump also calls for the end to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board that protects Americans and the environment.

After last week’s continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of this year, Trump delivers his next year’s budget. It’s a 4.4 trillion dollar monster budget that will have $1 trillion dollar deficits into the future, due largely to the recent tax breaks. Total deficit spending from this is expected to reach $7 Trillion dollars over the next ten years. Defense spending is increased and Medicare spending decreased. Even though of course Trump as a lying candidate said as a lying President he would not touch Medicare. The budget would eliminate Public Broadcasting and programs supporting the poor.

To help out with that deficit, Trump’s cabinet member and VA head Shulkin and his wife were condemned by watchdog agencies of jetting around the world on first class travel for meetings and events of little value to his agency. Pruitt claims he also needs first class travel to keep him from the public where he often has unpleasant interactions. He says there is a very toxic political environment….while his dismantling of the EPA creates a very real toxic eco environment.

Attempting to privatize more of our nation’s assets, Trump socializes as part of the new budget the idea of selling the international space station to a private operator. Oh, except for the problem that it is an international space station and thus the U.S. does not own it to sell it.

The chaos continues in the Middle East where Trump’s military has accidentally killed Russians in Syria. It was only a matter of time before that happen. But what is so eery is that the Russians don’t complain. Hum.

The nation suffers another terrible tragedy when a mentally ill man enters a high school in Florida wearing a gas mask and uses a AR-15 semi-automatic assault weapon to kill 15 students and 2 adults. We weep for the lives lost and their surviving families. Politicians offer the same sad response as they have after dozens of other mass shootings, and blame everything except the easy access to weaponry that should be available only to the military. This happens a year after Trump ended a ban on gun sales to the mentally ill, and a decade after the ban on guns like this was lifted by Congress due to pressure from the NRA. Americans are so shell shocked we have been paralyzed from outrage and action. The nation should take to the streets of Washington and shutdown the Capital until something is done.

The week ends with the Special Prosecutor filing indictments of Russians and Russian businesses for who tried to influence the 2016 US Election. Like Climate Change, all the evidence is clear what happened and what is still happening as the mid-terms approach. The country and our democratic processes were attacked by a foreign entity; and yet Trump as President does nothing to defend the country except claim he is innocent.

During the week revelations of another Trump affair some years back while his then-current wife was pregnant. No outrage from all those good Christian Evangelical congressmen and voters where nothing surprises anyone anymore.

The Trump administration demonstrates his concern of the poor by suggesting that instead of giving them SNAP funds to purchase the foods their family needs, we just give them a box of processed foods selected by the big government agencies that Trumpites says can’t do anything right.

February 18 – 24, 2018

The week begins with U.S. National Security Adviser McMaster stating that the evidence is incontrovertible that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections attempting to sow discourse and chaos. Trump continues to ignore this and is failing to carry out his duties to protect the country from adversaries who have attacked the very heart of our democracy. Instead, Trump blames the FBI, Democrats, Obama, news media, Hillary, his Attorney General, and everyone else for Russian interference, except the Russians. Trump lies some more by claiming that his administration has been much tougher on the Russians than any other.

During the week it comes out that First Lady Melania’s parents likely earned permanent legal residency in the U.S. from the same chained-migration policies that Trump has vowed to destroy for immigrants who lack wealth and connections. What gall to rail against immigrants when he has married one!

Trump continues to goes to Mar-a-Lago nearly every weekend, with all the associated cost and stress on the secret service, to get away from his duties in Washington. Once there he spends his time tweeting his outrage at everyone else just like he could have done from Washington..

Meanwhile, border patrol officers under Trump’s new get tough policy now act at will with little constitutional constraints up to 100 miles away from the border. They can stop and search people without warrant or cause, do their work on private property, and in general act like their own national security force without due process of law. Trump must have them in training for bigger things to come.

The winter Olympics continue in South Korea with faint signs of diplomacy between the North and South. Not to let peace get in the way of conflict, Trump puts more sanctions on trade with North Korea that will likely only hurt the already impoverished people of North Korea. Yet, during this tense time he still does not have an Ambassador to South Korea that might help with diplomatic solutions.

Trump defends all the White House staff who still don’t have security clearances by saying that General Kelly owns the problem. Trump continues to refer to his embattled Chief of Staff as General. We know all aspiring autocrats love the idea of being surrounded and protected by the military.

To help the working poor he promised to save, Trump wants to get rid of another program that does help them. This time its the home energy assistance program that helps the poor pay their heating bills. Meanwhile, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt who says he must travel first class to avoid hostility from the public was forced to cancel a “fact finding” trip to Israel. And to live up to a campaign promise to help with parental leave, the Republicans have the idea of parents using up or borrowing against the Social Security benefits years in advance for family leave. They probably hope this will only move SS faster into ruins so they can kill off the entire program.

In an on-going effort to kill off the ACA healthcare, and disrupt commercial insurance markets so they don’t work, Trump proposed new rules for cheap short-term insurance options that do not have to provide essential coverage. The junk food of insurance. This would of course contribute to the collapse of many insurance plans that require a mix of young and old, healthy and sick, to function.

Trump holds a listening meeting with survivors of the Parkland High School shooting where dozens of students were hit and 17 died including 2 teachers. During the meeting he is seen holding notes reminding him to listen and show empathy. The next day he acts like he has heard nothing and says the answer is to put more guns into our schools by arming teachers and turning them into hardened fortresses. The obvious action of making military grade weapons illegal is not mentioned of course. The irony that Trump has a press conference this week with the Australian Prime Minister who can take pride that after his country banned assault weapons following a mass shooting, not another one has occurred. The nation once again weeps. Thank goodness for the courage of the students who are now fighting the NRA’s shameful funding of so many in Congress to the tune of over $200M in the past two decades.

Trump Jr on a Trump real estate hyping trip to India was reported planning to mix commercial business with government policy by giving a foreign policy speech on the same trip. The cost to attend a dinner meeting with the President’s son was reported to be only $38,000 if you pay an advance Trump Tower booking fee.

February 25 – March 3, 2018

This week has exhausted the country from all the chaos in the White House.

The administration confirmed that Trump’s personal corporate pilot who flew him around the country during the campaign is to be nominated to head the FAA agency responsible for regulation and safety of millions of passengers each year. Yes, of course, this follows so many other appointees of cronies, family members, and people with no qualifications to lead except their loyalty to Trump.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions started the week by using the Justice Dept. to fight against justice and equal rights for the LGBT community. He ended the week in another spat with Trump who said Sessions was disgraceful and was being too lame of an AG, especially when it came to letting the Russia investigation run.

A day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee where she confessed to telling white lies, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigns. She now joins dozens of WH officials who have met the door. Hicks was a former model turned Trump confidant and then at the age of 29 became responsible for communications from the once most prestigious and respected office of the land. She also had time to pursue romantic relationships with other WH staff members, including those accused of abusing their ex-wives like Rob Porter.

Trump family member and adviser Jared Kushner lost his temporary top-secret clearance status. Intelligence reports surfaced from intercepted communications that several foreign governments were hoping to exploit Kushner’s financial needs and lack of diplomacy maturity. Trump had given Kushner the jobs of relationships with China, Japan, some domestic policies, and of course creating a lasting peace in the Middle East. During the week it surfaces that Kushner’s real estate firms in 2017 received over $500M in loans from private equity and banking institutions after their executives visited the WH. Apparently the thought that taking official meetings in the WH with financiers like these might be a conflict of interest never crossed the minds of this corrupt family.

With all the chaos during the week WH Chief of Staff John Kelley even jokes in public that God must be punishing him.

The U.S. Citizens and Immigration Service revised its mission charter to say that the U.S. is no longer a nation of immigrants. Except for Trump’s wives I suppose; they must not count.

The State Department diplomat with the most history of dealing with North Korea, Joseph Yun, suddenly announced his plans to retire. He must see what is coming and wants no part of this history. Reports from a classified war planning conducted this month exposes the horror in loss of life if war breaks out on the Korean peninsula.

Another career diplomat, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson,  announces her plans to resign. She wants no part of Trump’s feud with Mexico.

Top senior intelligence officials and military leaders continue to sound the alarm that the U.S. has done nothing in response to Russia’s attack on the integrity of our elections. Testifying before Congress they admit the WH has not asked them to do anything different. Trump continues to say nothing and abdicate his responsibility to protect the country. National security adviser McMaster is rumored to be on the way out after he challenged the WH last week by saying the evidence of meddling was impossible to deny.

Putin in Russia talks up his new arsenal of weapons and missiles that rival anything the U.S. has to offer. Trump says nothing.

China’s top leader Xi Jinping works to dismantle his two-term limit in the same week that Trump files campaign papers for his 2020 reelection and hires a campaign chief. Trump must think of his presidency as one long nightmarish must-watch TV reality show of perpetual drama, lying, stealing, and pillaging of which  Americans will want more than two seasons.

During the week Trump suggests that some gun regulations will be a good thing, leaving members of his own party on the NRA payroll shocked. The NRA comes a calling to the WH that very same day, meeting with both Trump and Pence. Afterwards they claim to have changed the President’s mind. Nice, the NRA now clearly owns the WH in addition to owning Congress. Meanwhile, with all the chaos and lack of leadership, no sensible new laws have been put in place since the last Florida shooting of high school students.

The week ends with Trump pre-announcing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that startle stock markets, global partners, and even Trump’s own commerce secretary. Trump declares that trade wars are a good thing and that the U.S. can easily win them. Unfortunately, our allies like Canada are also our top importers. Great, let’s have a border war with Mexico and a trade war with Canada, and a few real wars thrown in like with Korea.

The above news has been taken from a number of international, national, regional, and local news media sources, both print and digital. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

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