More chaos encircles the Trump White House as Trump announces that Chief of Staff John Kelly, one of the few adults in the building who try to manage Trump the best they can, will be leaving at the end of the year. His replacement is a 36 year old Republican party operative, Nick Ayers, who is expected to run the White House as if it were a perpetual campaign office for the next two years. Trump had often criticized Kelly for not having political skills as well as resisted the discipline that Kelly was trying to enforce. Dozens of people have now come and gone in the White House in less than two years.
The legal noose continues to tighten around the President as Trump’s former adviser Michael Flynn has apparently shared much of what he knew about Russian meddling with the Trump campaign and early White House transition team. Flynn is offered no jail time for his cooperation. Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort is not as forthcoming and is accused of lying to investigators multiple times and now faces additional charges for violating the terms of his plea deal. Separately, investigations into Trump and his personal attorney Michael Cohen paying off several women with hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money before the election have resulted in new federal filings from prosecutors that federal campaign laws were broken.
U.S. stock markets tumble by 800 points in one day as doubts about the trade war with China resurface when Trump describes himself as a “Tariff Man”. After a Chinese telecom executive is arrested in Canada for extraditing to the U.S. the stock market continues to fall wiping out all of the gains of the year.
In a global meeting on climate change the U.S. was singled out as a sad case of a nation that is experiencing the impact of climate change but refuses to listen to the warnings of so many scientists an increasing numbers of economists and religious leaders. Back home the EPA announces its intent to role back regulations to make it easier to build new coal plants by easing restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions. God forgive us for our crimes against the planet and humanity.
Trump rails against the media saying he needs a state run channel as if Fox news is not enough. Of course, that is what autocrats all want.
Trump appoints a former Fox News personality, Heather Nauert, to the post of ambassador to the United Nations. Her only relevant experience outside of Fox & Friends is as a spokesperson for the State Department for the last year. Yes, there are wildfire crises all over the world, and Trump nominates someone with no diplomatic experience.
The Senate approves Trump’s nominee of the CFPB watchdog agency, Kathy Kraninger, who like so many of his other appointees has little relevant experience or knowledge, other than an ideology to dismantle consumer protections and the agency she is asked to run.
Trump announces his pick for a new Attorney General, William Barr, who actually does have impressive credentials and the respect from both sides having served as the late President Bush’s AG in the early 1990s. Why would Trump do this? Barr has criticized the special prosecutors investigation into Russian influence and is an advocate of sweeping presidential powers and executive privilege.
Trump calls his ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “dumb and lazy as hell” after Tillerson said Trump did not like to read or listen to others, relying solely on his instincts.
Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking in Brussels attacks the United Nations, European Union, multilateralism, and existing treaties. These are institutions that have helped to keep the world relatively peaceful since WWII. In a NATO meeting he then threatens to leave an arms treaty with the Russians, and the Russians respond by promising to restart weapons programs that have kept Europe safe from nuclear attack.
President George H. Bush dies this week, and the nation is reminded of what a true patriot and servant to the nation most President’s were. While many may differ with the past president on his policies, very few on either side find fault with the integrity and decency of which he ran the White House, his family and personal life. The contrast with Trump is so stark it is almost unbelievable. Thank god Trump is not invited to speak at his funeral service although he was invited by the Bush family, despite Trump mocking, demeaning, and attacking various members of the family over the years. To visit the grieving Bush family, Trump, instead of walking, takes an 8-vehicle motorcade to travel 250 yards across the street from the White House.
The Republican party of Trump who wrap themselves around the flag and honor veterans who fight to protect our freedoms and democracy have been busy attacking the will of the people at the state level. In Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina the Republicans are trying to negate votes on issues such as right to work and limit the power of incoming Democratic Governors and Attorney Generals. What patriots they are indeed.
After a CIA briefing, numerous Senators call the Saudi Prince MSB out as being directly responsible for the killing of a journalist and US resident. Trump remains unconvinced that his friend and fellow autocrat is guilty. A report comes out this week that shortly after Trump was elected, the Saudis spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to put up and entertain lobbyists at Trump’s D.C. hotel properties.
Trump says he will meet again with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even though there has been no progress on denuclearization since he first meeting when Trump claimed that NK was no longer a threat. Satellite photos are released that show NK expanding a key ballistic missile base. It is thought that Kim is just waiting out the demise of the Trump administration that is increasingly under siege. Kim may be miscalculating as when you back someone like Trump into a corner, he will go looking for a military adventure to turn the attention off of him and rally the people around the flag in a time of war. Just like Kim would do. They are perfect for each other and the wrath of history awaits them.
It seems Trump can’t find anyone dumb enough to take the job of his chief of staff in a White House under siege and a President barreling toward impeachment. The week begins with V.P. Pence’s head Nick Ayers turning the job down. It ends with Budget Director Mick Mulvaney agreeing to take it for an “acting” interim period. Mulvaney likely wants a new job out of budget office since Trump’s massive tax cuts have blown up the U.S. deficit in a time of economic prosperity when it should be shrinking.
With the departure of John Kelly the turnover in the upper echelons of the Trump administration is well over 50% in less than two years, a record for Presidents. Interior Chief Ryan Zinke is the next one to exit this week as he resigns due to federal investigations and conflicts of interest. He is said to fear the incoming Democrat leadership of the House which can now launch investigations of wrong doing that the previous Republican leadership swept under the rug.
A report comes out that during Trump’s presidential campaign the Russian’s interacted with over a dozen of his associates, family members, and friends.
Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen is sentenced to 4 years in jail for various crimes, including violation of campaign finance laws when he paid off women Trump had an affair with to buy their silence and thus influence the 2016 election. The publisher of the tabloid that pursued the catch and kill strategy for the story, AMI, had even admitted a payoff was done to protect Trump. Trump predictably goes on a twitter tantrum and calls Cohen a rat and totally responsible for breaking the law. Trump’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani says Cohen is a serial liar. He should know one when he sees one as he works for one.
In a made-for-TV-disaster, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer visit the White House to talk to Trump about the wall. On live TV Trump threatens to shutdown the government before Christmas if he does not get his way with Congress in $5B of funding for the wall. Trump tries to intimidate Pelosi and Schumer, but they had none of it and fought back with the cameras rolling. During the week news channels play back all the times over the past few years that Trump says Mexico was going to pay for the wall. Never mind Trump says, the Mexicans are paying for it in the new trade deal. Right.
The trade war becomes more human with the Chinese arrest of two Canadians to counter the arrest of a Chinese electronics executive last week wanted by the U.S. Trump can’t help himself and almost admits this was part of his strategy by saying he would have the executive released if it provided the largest big trade deal ever made. Yes, as we know from Saudi Arabia, everything is just a token for negotiation, including the pursuit of justice.
The Washington Post continues to track all the lies of President Trump during his campaign and term of office. It seems there are few topics which he has not misled the country about. Trade, economics, Saudis, Russians, NATO, immigration, health care, drug trafficking, and the list goes on and on.
Not to be surprised, the venerable Voice of America and other U.S. media agencies are reported to be in turmoil as Trump loyalists attempt to take control and distort the news that is being reported around the world. The new head of the Agency for Global Media, Michael Pack, was supported in his nomination by extremist Steve Bannon. “Trump TV” anyone?
Trump’s war on the environment continues as the administration proposes more rollback of clean water legislation such as those protecting wetlands and runoff from farms. And in Poland, the U.S. is one of only 4 countries out of nearly 200 that push back on endorsing a climate report that the other countries have approved. We join Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia. How far have we fallen.
Yet, another tumultuous week in Washington. How much more chaos are the American people willing to take from this administration?
Trump blindsides his own cabinet, defense department, state department, congress and allies by announcing over a tweet the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Trump has declared that we have defeated ISIS. Yea, right, another blatant lie. Just like North Korea is no longer a threat. Trump apparently made his decision after speaking not to his National Security Chiefs, but to Turkey’s autocrat President Erdogan who had been threatening to send troops across the border to attack U.S. allies the Kurds. Trump reportedly agreed with Erdogan’s assessment, and decided to pull out of Syria on the spot.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is so put-off by both the decision and process that he resigns the next day. He is the first defense head to quit in protest of a presidential action in modern times. Congressional representatives are quoted saying they are worried with another loss of the few remaining experienced cabinet members and advisors to Trump. Mattis follows the resignation of Chief of Staff John Kelly just a few weeks before. The adults babysitting Trump and talking him down from other impetuous actions.
Two days later Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the international collation fighting in Syria also quits, saying the mission is far from accomplished. Diplomats around the world are shaken by the turnover and are given more reasons not to trust or work with the United States under Trump. One of the few world leaders approving of Trump’s decision is, you guessed it, President Putin of Russia who says “Donald is right” to pull out, and leave it to the Russians and Syrians to finish their opponents off, including the Kurdish allies who must feel totally betrayed, and even the Israelis.
On the heels of this chaos, Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress shuts down the federal government because Trump could not $5B for his border wall in a continuing resolution before Congress adjourned for the end of year. A wall he said time and time again that the Mexicans were going to pay for. Last week in a meeting with Democrat Leadership, Trump threatened that he would shut the government down and gladly take responsibility for it. Now that hundreds of thousands of federal employee have been furloughed without pay 4 days before Christmas, Trump says it is the Democrat’s doing. How does this scrooge keep all his lies and blaming straight? Merry Christmas America!
Before adjourning the Senate release a report on Russian interference and influence with the 2016 elections. There was no doubt that the Russians sought to boost Trump’s standing, working up his nationalistic base, while attacking and misleading those who would vote for Clinton. The Russian’s disinformation campaigns are said to continue to today, targeting Special Prosecutor Mueller and others.
Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn in a court appearance is rebuked by the judge saying Flynn acting as a foreign agent was treasonous and his lying about Russian conversations was disgusting.
The self-dealings of the Trump Foundation, a supposed non-profit, were so egregious and criminal that the State of New York has just ordered it shut down. The non-profit was operated as an extension of Trump’s business empire and political campaign. In the deal Trump’s adult children Donald Jr, Ivanka, and Eric all are said to have participated in the improper and at times illegal transactions.
The stock market continues to tumble with some stocks down by over 20% in the worst December of losses since the Great Depression. But good news for companies receiving tax breaks like Boeing who announces they will buy back $20B of shares and boost their dividend by 20%. Instead of using the money for investments or job creation, they will give it to mostly the wealthy Americans who own a disproportionately large share of the stock market. Growing income inequality in action.
Not to be content with completely messing up things on the ground, Trump signs an order officially creating the new DoD Space Command.
In a bit of ever rare good news, the Supreme Court puts a check on Trump’s authority to ban those claiming asylum as an option for those who cross into the U.S. from Mexico running away from persecution back home.
The federal government remains shutdown due to Trump throwing a tantrum because he does not get his funding for a border wall. A wall that most experts think will be a multi-billion dollar fool’s folly. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been furloughed, some with and without pay, over the holidays.
The stock market responds by suffering its greatest loss in one day since the great depression. Trump adds fuel to the financial uncertainty by blaming the Fed Chair for doing their job of slowing normalizing interest rates. The country like opioid addicts has become addicted to cheap flow of money propping up an economy that has so many systemic failures. Expanding the money supply by an average of 6% over recent years has only allowed the wealthy to get wealthier and income inequality to grow. Trump obviously knows this and why he is so opposed to closing the bar for those who are already intoxicated by money.
The country will start the new year without a Defense Chief on duty protecting America after Trump told Mattis to leave early upon reading the tone of his resignation letter. The acting head will be a former Boeing executive with no experience in the armed forces, not even foreign policy.
After firing the head of the armed forces, the President makes an unannounced visit to Iraq, his first visit to a combat zone in the two years of his presidency to show support of the troops. Yes, he just forced their boss out early by not having enough respect to consult with him before he decided to pull troops out of Syria. Even the conservative news that adores Trump had complained he had not visited the troops. In another breach of military protocol, the President politicizes his speech in front of the troops to attack his fellow-country men and women including Democrats and then sign his MAGA campaign hats. Does the man have no shame?
No, he does not. In taking a Christmas Eve call from a child at the White House, Trump asks the 7-year-old if he still believes in Santa Claus, because after all at that age it is marginal. The child did not understand what marginal meant, and said yes he still believes. Too bad Trump does not. Trump tweets early in the holiday break that he is all alone in the White House, “poor me”, waiting for the democrats to return to negotiating.
As the year ends, we need a scorecard on all the turmoil. Stock markets are rattled and have gone to bear. The government is shutdown. The congress ineffective at fulfilling its constitutional role as a check in balance of executive powers. The president remains under investigation. A non-stop stream of lies, misstatements, threats, demeaning comments, and personal attacks comes daily from the people’s White House. His campaign head, attorney fixer, and former national security advisor have all pleaded guilty to crimes. One of which was paying off women to keep them silent about affairs with three-times married Trump. Most of the cabinet and national security team have changed heads once if not twice. The Attorney General was fired. The Defense Chief quit in protest. The head of Interior quit under ethics investigation. The U.N. ambassador quit. The architect of fighting ISIS resigned. The Chief of Staff quit. The Secretary of State left earlier in the year as did others. The respect for the Supreme Court had been fractured. The free press and American judiciary attacked by the White House who has often threatened to investigate and/or jail political opponents. The independency of the U.S. central bank is threatened. The Russians and other authoritarian strongmen are cuddled. Our relations with allies and NATO are at their worse ever. Treaties have been abandoned. Progress with North Korea is nil. Environment regulations laid waste. The US has withdrawn from leadership on so many pressing issues including climate change. We now have multiple trade wars going on with the cost of tariffs being paid as a tax by Americans. Trump’s behavior has emboldened despots and extremists around the world who are jailing dissidents, attacking the press, working up nationalist movements, eroding democratic institutions and liberal democracies. Immigrant children at the border detained in our custody are being held in cages and some have died under our care. We tear gas poor immigrant families across the southern border that is effectively closed at many locations. Our bombs and military support of dictators like Saudi Arabia’s MSB are killing citizens in Yemen. And the list goes on and on from reading these posts of 2017.
Merry Christmas, America, a nation that has so lost its way under Trump.
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.