The government shutdown continued this week affecting over 800,000 federal employees, countless contractors, and public services. Trump threatens that it could last weeks or even months if he does not get his border wall. Nearly every time Trump speaks about the wall or migrants, he throws in a number of lies, such as claiming that Mexico is really going to pay for it, or that much of the wall already has been built.
The Democrats took control of the House this week and promised to exercise their constitutional rights including investigating the President with a few threatening to impeach him if warranted. In one of the few bright spots, the House of Representatives now looks like the real America does with more women, minorities, gays, and non Christians, to the dismay of most conservative Republicans. Meetings in the White House to reopen government between the new congressional leaders and Trump did not go well, to no one’s surprise.
Wall or no wall does not stop the Border Patrol from its responsibility for children in their custody who are now dying, two in the past few weeks. The border patrol has now taken to routinely firing tear gas across the border into crowds of migrants who they accuse of throwing rocks. Yet another norm is broken that we start to take this action for granted of firing projectiles across borders of our neighbors.
This week newly elected Republican Senator Romney finally has the courage to stand up to Trump and calls him out for not living up to the mantle, character and honesty expected of the office. Former U.S. commander McChrystal of Afghanistan forces blasts Trump for his lying as well as signaling to the Taliban that we are leaving the country. Trump strikes back calling him a failed general with a big dumb mouth and a Hillary lover on top of it. Trump continues to demean his former Defense Chief Jim Mattis by claiming that he fired him before he could resign because of bad job performance.
The financial markets end a year with the worst annual performance in a decade since the great depression with one day of trading that was the worst in seven years. Volatility is so high that the Dow Jones swings 500-1000 points each day and between the next day. Investors have much to worry about including trade wars, real wars, tariffs, and global markets overall softening under the burden of a decade of easy cheap money for addicts.
Trump sends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Brazil to observe the right-wing extremist President Bolsonaro, a Trump fan, taking office. It seems Trump’s nationalistic authoritarian behavior in the U.S. has embolden autocrats around the world. Bolsonaro immediately begins removing protection of the environment, indigenous people, social programs and the gay community.
Trump has pulled the US out of relatively non controversial organizations like the United Nation’s educational, scientific, and cultural agency UNESCO. It was co-founded after WWII by the U.S. to foster global cooperation instead of fighting. Of course Trump would want to kill this as he acts like a terrorist who enjoys constant fighting and blowing things up.
The NYT reports that during 2018 Trump by Twitter alone insulted, demeaned, attacked, or disparaged over 200 people, organizations, places, leaders, nations, and former members of his own administration. The list is so exhaustive it takes two pages to list all the targets of Trump’s toddler temper tantrums.
The shutdown of the federal government became the longest in history this past week. Hundreds of thousands of workers went without receiving their pay this past Friday. Increasing numbers are calling in sick, as expected since they are under the stress of living with such uncertainty of when they will go back to work or be paid.
In his first primetime television address to the nation, Trump continues to mislead and lie to the nation misstating facts about immigration and the border such as the security threat from thousands of terrorists coming across the southern border. His appearance was one of horror for many Americans as he once again tried to stoke the flames of fear mongering and prejudices. Thankfully, almost daily the press is fact-checking the statements of Trump and his spokespeople.
What most Americans wanted to hear from the President was not fear mongering about a non-existent crisis at the border, but when the federal government would go back to work protecting our airports, inspecting food, training FAA controllers, patrolling our offshore waters, staffing our national parks, processing our tax refunds, getting funds to farmers, trying to keep the peace around the world in diplomatic assignments, approving new drugs, inspecting for pollution, awarding grants for medical research, manning space exploration missions, watching the changing climate, and thousands of other functions that are taken for granted.
The next day Trump storms out of a meeting with Congressional leaders, throwing a tantrum that he is not getting his way. He threatens to declare a national emergency to give him war-like powers to have the military build a wall.
Citing the shutdown, Trump says he will not attend the annual World Economic Forum in Davos later this month. Given the chaos to international trading that he has inflicted, and the lack of respect he has from other democratically elected leaders, this is probably the real reason to sit this event out.
In the Middle east, Trump has Secretary of State Pompeo blasting past American Presidents, principally Obama, for supposedly creating the mess we are in. It’s another breach of diplomacy that an American diplomat attacks other Americans in front of an international audience. But of course this is what Trump did standing next to Putin last year. Pompeo claimed that the U.S. had been too timid in asserting itself. Yeah, right, we have military operations going on all across the Middle East and we are timid. Pompeo is in a mess alright, but that is because he is having to defend and explain to Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Afghan governments the revolving door of Trump’s cabinet. And defend the many contradictions in Trump’s tweet and intentions like the on and off and on again removal of U.S. troops. The Trump administration does not even have ambassadors in 4 of the 9 countries that Pompeo is dealing with or visiting this week.
While Pompeo was in the Middle East praising and sucking up to autocrat strongmen like Egypt’s el-Sisi, Turkey’s Erdogan, and the Saudi Royals while dissing past American Presidents, Trump was saying that China’s communist bosses were more honorable to negotiate with than Democrats in his own country.
The departures from the administration continue as Rod Rosenstein signaled he plans to leave his role as the nation’s number 2 law enforcement official when his new boss and Attorney General William Barr is confirmed. At that time the President will be one step closer to being able to have Special Prosecutor Mueller fired.
To replace outgoing disgraced head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, Trump this week nominated acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler to run the agency. How sad during a week in which it was announced U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide surged upward by an estimated 3.4% last year, that Trump would double down on an ex-coal industry executive that wants more deregulation of polluting industries.
In one of many tweets, Trump threatened to cut FEMA funds from California that were going to help victims of the brutal deadly fires of 2018. Trump blames the fires on California’s forest management policies; too clueless or careless to understand hat more than half of the state’s forest are managed by the federal government, not the state.
Photos emerge this week of all the Russian-backing Ukrainians that attended Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
At the end of the week the NYT releases a story that the FBI launched a counterintelligence investigation after Trump fired FBI director James Comey as to whether the newly-elected president was working for or compromised by the Russians. Another news story details how the President went to extraordinary lengths to hide the details of his private conversations with Russia President Putin. In his face-to-face meetings he did so without having other U.S. diplomats present as is the custom. Afterwards he is said to have taken possession of the interpreter’s notes from the meetings so that there would be no records of what was said. Thank God that the Democrats now have leadership in the House and can force their own public investigation of what many have alleged as reckless if not treasonous behavior.
The federal government shutdown has become the longest in history at now over 4 weeks. Federal workers as well as many contractors take to filing unemployment, seeking other jobs, and visiting food banks. Trump says he will never back down in the shutdown showdown with the Democrats until he gets his border wall.
Given the White House kitchen staff is gone, Trump resorts to serving fast food to White House guests. In his idle time, as if there is nothing else better for the President to do, he tweets insults at business leaders, world leaders, the press, his cabinet, congress, immigrants…..
The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shows some fortitude of her own by disinviting Trump from making his annual (un)State of the Union address to the country from the Capitol Building as long as the government is shutdown. Trump responds by cancelling a congressional fact-finding trip to the Middle East that was to use military planes. The rest of America may soon be grounded from travelling if the TSA and FAA employees stop coming to work without having been paid for a month.
The suspicions about Trump and Putin rise to an even higher level after more reports that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation of the President shortly after he was elected. On the lawn of the White House the President of the United States is forced to declare that he never worked for Russia after failing to answer a reporter’s question the day before on whether he had. But then he blatantly lies by stating that no president has ever taken as hard of a line as he has against Russia. What are we to believe? Nothing he says.
Even the President’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, gets tripped up by all the lying by saying he never said there was no collusion between the Russians and the President’s 2016 campaign, only that the President did not personally collude with the Russians. Oh, thanks, that makes it so much better. He walks it back the next day. More lies.
Finally a few Republicans are putting their country above their party by challenging the administration’s plans to lift sanctions against Russian oligarchs and Putin allies, some of whom are suspected of helping Trump with his international financial and banking needs.
A NYT article this week alleged that Trump privately told his administration officials numerous times in 2018 that he wanted to withdraw the U.S. from NATO. The NATO alliance, which has helped to keep the peace in Europe for decades, aided the U.S. in our Middle East wars after 9/11 and provided a bulwark against Soviet then Russian aggression. Speculation is that this is the one thing Putin – the one leader that Trump has never said a bad word about – wants the most.
Trump’s past attorney Michael Cohen confesses to another crime this week that he paid tens of thousands of dollars of cash in a bag to have poll results rigged for Trump. He apparently had enough loot left over to pay to have fake followers admire him on Facebook.
This week it was announced that Trump and Kim Un Jong will hold a second summit. Yes, especially since nothing has happened in a year since the last one, let’s get on the world TV stage with another strongman dictator to show how much progress is not being made. Can there be any doubt that the North Koreans are just playing Trump out until he is removed from office?
The very same day that Vice President Pence echoes Trump’s declaration that ISIS in Syria has been defeated, four Americans are killed by ISIS in Syria in addition to 15 others. Trump’s state propaganda TV Fox News buries the deaths down in their news feeds. But wait, breaking news, what really happened at Benghazi and with Hillary years ago? And what about those emails?
In a visit to the Pentagon to speak to “his” generals Trump promotes his vision for a grand space-base missile defense system. Trump declares that space is the next war-fighting domain. How uplifting.
With growing civic disgust and commercial turmoil, after five weeks Trump ends the federal shutdown by agreeing to an interim continuing resolution to reopen the country for three weeks. He did not get his wall that Mexico was going to pay for, then us. But in pure Trump Orwellian style, he claims victory with more lies to the American people. And a threat this could happen again if he does not get his wall.
This time Trump supporters on Fox News could not even take the lying with calling him pathetic and a wimp. Wow, when Fox News turns against Trump, you know things are bad,
In the last week of the shutdown where federal workers missed their second paycheck, a member of Trump’s family claimed that a bit of pain on the behalf of workers was worth it all. His Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he did not understand what the big deal was as furloughed workers could just get a loan to cover their missing paychecks. Trump’s cabinet is reported to be the wealthiest ever assembled. Let them eat cake they must think.
It has now been six weeks since the last official White House briefing in mid-December. The President and his press secretary blame the press corps and fake news media for not covering them fairly. Yeah, right.
The latest Trump confidant and long time friend to be charged in the Russia influence probe is Roger Stone. He is alleged to have lied about his role in revealing damaging emails on Hillary Clinton stolen by Russian operatives during the 2016 election. He is also accused of witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Stone is reported to now be the 6th Trump aide charged so far by special prosecutor Mueller and the 34th person overall.
The newly seated House of Representatives with a wide Democrat margin opens up one of many new investigations. The latest one into how the White House managed to give so many security clearances to people who would later be charged with crimes.
After the White House called out members of Trump-fixer Michael Cohen’s family in retribution, Cohen decides not to testify to the House claiming threats to his family. More tampering of witnesses?
The Supreme Court upholds a Trump administration policy directive that bans transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
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.