The President did this week what many had long expected – but which up to now was previously considered to be unbelievable in our democracy – he commuted the sentence of his long-time friend, confidant, and convicted felon Roger Stone. Stone had been found guilty in a jury trial of witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction of the Mueller investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election. He was also known to have communicated with Russian intelligence officers and he even claimed to have advance notice of the leak of emails stolen from the Clinton campaign. His actions were an act to protect and help Trump, and now Trump has pardoned him like a third-world dictator of a corrupt country making a mockery of their judicial system. Even Republican Mitt Romney declared it an unprecedented historic act of corruption. Trump had previously tweeted that Stone was the victim of a witch hunt and miscarriage of justice. This week Trump’s Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany call Stone a victim of the Russia hoax. Attorney General Barr had recently overruled his own Justice Dept. to recommend a more lenient sentence, but that was not light enough for the President and his den of convicted criminals.
Perhaps believing they live in a country without a working justice system, at times the country in Trump’s 4th year seems to becoming completely unglued with rampant street violence. In one weekend of street-justice 87 are shot in Chicago with 17 dead, including a 7 year old. Over 70 were shot in NYC and over a dozen in St. Louis.
Trump’s appointees to the U.S. Consumer Finance (un)Protection Bureau continue to roll back Obama-era protections of the consumer, doing what most other agencies in the Trump administration are also busy with. This time they rescinded the reasonable requirement that payday lenders ensure borrowers can repay emergency loans. Most people understand that payday lenders actually don’t want people to pay off their debt given the outrageous interest rates and fees they charge.
With a global pandemic ravaging not just the US but all of world, President Trump makes good on his promise to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization with official notification sent to the United Nations. The White House then goes on the attack to blame other countries for the mess we are in. What must the rest of the globe think of us; has the whole country gone mad, or is it just our political leadership?
Another week and another new jobless claim of over 1 million. This week it was 1.3 million, near the same as the last 4 weeks, bringing the total filings over 4 months by my count to over 50 million, a staggering number that is rarely referenced by federal agencies or the Trump White House. The good news is that millions have been called back to work, but now that improvement is threatened with the resurgence of infections keeping Americans in their homes away from work, shopping, dining, entertainment, and travel. Yet, unbelievable as it seems, the stock market continues to rally as if it was completely detached from the reality of working Americans. I hope most investors know this too is a bubble created by the Fed Reserve pumping so much money into the economy with no where to go except into the stock valuations and dividend payments of the largely unaffected wealthy.
In the weeks after the President’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, hundreds of people there have tested positive for COVID-19. Now even the state’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, who was with the President, has become the first governor although others have gone into quarantine because of infected staff or family members. Read more about our Pandemic President’s actions this week at https://bearingwitnessheartland.com/2020/07/05/bearing-witness-to-the-pandemic-july-2020/.
The President and his Secretary of (Privatizing) Education Betsy DeVos demanded that schools reopen in the fall, regardless of the risk to children, their families, teachers, and staff. Actually she went so far as to say that there was no risk and “there’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is any any way dangerous.” The administration then threatened to pull federal funding of education out of those states which did not follow dear leader’s decree, or give it to private schools that did reopen. She did not offer a plan to help school districts across the country absorb the estimated $100-$200B of additional expenses to safely open and operate during a raging pandemic. Trump blamed the Democrats saying they wanted to keep schools closed for political reasons to make him look bad. No, Trump needs no help in making himself look bad.
In another unwarranted attack on immigrants wanting a better life here or back home, the Trump administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said that foreign students must leave the US if their classes are held online and not in classrooms this fall. A vast outcry arose from college leaders all across the nation, many who are already struggling with falling enrollments and deteriorating finances that are heavily dependent on the higher tuition international students pay. One of the few remaining strengths of the US that we are respected for is the education we offer the best and brightest student from around the world. A few days later Trump did something he rarely does, reversed his decision after hearing of opposition from hundreds of universities and new lawsuits.
In more dismantling of the Affordable Healthcare Act led by the Trump administration, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing employers to opt out of the requirement to provide employees with birth control coverage. Over 100,000 women could lose that coverage as they work for organizations that will claim some moral objection to contraception. As if these businesses had many of the same rights of people. Oh, I forgot, they do based on the 2010 court ruling against Citizens United.
But in a different ruling this week the High Court was not as favorable to Trump when it ruled that the President did not have absolute immunity from criminal investigation and prosecution. The ruling allows a New York district court to proceed with subpoenaing Trump’s tax records as part of their investigation into violations of campaign finance laws surrounding alleged hush-money payments made to a porn star. Trump responded as expected with a tweet storm claiming he is a poor victim of a witch hunt, prosecutorial misconduct, and presidential harassment.
Perhaps in retribution, the Federal Bureau of Prisons ordered Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen back to jail instead of the home confinement he was released into because of the pandemic. Cohen had previously publicly disclosed the President’s payments to porn star Stormy Daniels as part of the Mueller investigation and was threatening to write yet another tell-all book about the President.
The administration has driven another honorable man out of service to the country. This time it was national security aide Lt. Col. Vindman who testified with upmost credibility in the House impeachment hearings of the President. Upon announcing his retirement Vindman accused the President of “bullying, intimidation, and retaliation.” The White House was reported to have asked for an investigation of misconduct by Vindman and was pressuring the Pentagon to delay what should have been a routine promotion.
The President welcomed Mexico President Andres Obrador to the White House for a photo op to sign a joint declaration. Yes, in the middle of a global pandemic the President shares the stage without social distancing or wearing a mask and passes the declaration of the new North American trade agreement along with a pen back and forth to another world leader. Thankfully, Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau was smart enough to pass on this event. We are all left stunned by the Mexican leader bothered to show up given how Trump has disparaged Mexico and its migrant laborers.
The President’s niece and clinical psychologist, Dr. Mary Trump, alleges in her new book “Too Much and Not Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” that the Trump family suffered from the dysfunctions of the President’s father Fred Trump whom she called a sociopath. It was also said that young Donald paid someone to take his SAT test, cheated, lied, bullied, mocked, and demeaned others including his own family members. Does any of this surprise much less shock us? The author said the night Trump won the election was the worst night in her life and she grieved for her country. Yes, it was the same for many of us as well.
The above news items have been taken from a number of international, national, regional, and local news media sources including print, digital, and broadcast. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.
(Featured photo credit, exclusive of title: Phil Pasquini / Shutterstock.com)