Media (333)

 

Rudy’s Marbles

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo Rudy Giuliani went off the rails.  He acknowledged that members of the Trump campaign probably colluded with the Russians, but maintained that the president knew nothing about it.  So while Paul Manafort shared polling data with a Russian secret agent, Don Jr., Manafort and Jared Kushner met with a lawyer working for the Kremlin, and Kushner tried to set up a back channel with Moscow, Trump was completely in the dark.  Add to that the fact that Michael Flynn had frequent contacts with Russians and lied about them and that Trump had a reputation as a micro-manager involved in every transaction at the Trump organization, and it explains why Hizzoner’s assertion lifted Cuomo’s eyebrows to a level they may not come back from.  It’s Giuliani’s role, as Trump’s TV lawyer, to get out in front of information that is soon to be revealed, but this time he apparently went too far and later tried to walk his words back by saying that neither Trump nor he knew anything about anybody colluding with the Russians at any time.  There were serious questions about Rudy having lost his marbles and the damage was done.

Meanwhile the stalemate in Washington is complete.  Nancy Pelosi asked Trump to delay his State of the Union speech or to mail it in because of security concerns related to the shutdown, and the president made a military plane for a congressional delegation to Afghanistan, led by Pelosi, unavailable, because ‘she should be in DC negotiating with him.’  Knowing that his poll numbers are becoming ever more unfavorable Trump said to his acting Chief of Staff “we’re getting crushed, why cannot we get a deal?,” indicating that he doesn’t realize that he cannot get a deal precisely because he’s getting crushed.  All the cards are in Pelosi’s favor, by cancelling the State of the Union she took his biggest podium away from Trump, while the president took something away from US troops in a war zone, who greatly value visits by politicians informing themselves.  A vote about the administration’s plan to lift sanctions against three companies owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska shows that Trump’s GOP support in Congress, even in the Senate, is crumbling, and that may be the only way out of the current mess, if Mitch McConnell finds his balls.

On the legal front Trump’s problems are mounting.  It was revealed that after he fired Comey the FBI started a counter intelligence investigation into the president, which would only be done if there was reasonable suspicion that he was either an agent of or targeted by Russia to act in its favor.  Mueller inherited this probe, and the fact that Trump withheld information about his meetings with Putin from his closest associates and even confiscated the interpreter’s notes from one of those meetings doesn’t help his case.  Neither does his proclaimed intention for the US to leave NATO.

Michael Cohen’s public testimony in Congress on February 7th could become even more explosive than already expected since it was revealed that Trump’s former fixer hired an IT firm to manipulate on-line polls in Trump’s favor, and that the president ordered him to commit perjury when testifying in the House about the Trump Tower project in Moscow.  The latter, for which Mueller apparently has proof beyond Cohen’s word, is obviously obstruction of justice and as such an impeachable offense.

After Trump made barely veiled threats to his family Cohen now apparently fears for his life, although it is unlikely that the president will have him shot on 5th Avenue before his testimony.  The latest revelations prompted Giuliani to say “if you believe Michael Cohen I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale,” not realizing that when it comes to believability only Trump scores lower than what was once ‘America’s Mayor.’

 

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A Rat in the House

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In business Trump had a reputation for paying off his last debt with his next loan, which most likely put him deeply in debt with Putin’s clique.  In politics the president is trying to do the same thing, taking attention away from the latest scandal by creating a new one.  There is no security crisis on the southern border, illegal crossings are at an 18 year low, but Trump manufactured a humanitarian crisis by making it all but impossible for asylum seekers to be processed and taking thousands of children away from their parents.  The next step would be to declare a national emergency and use his new autocratic powers to try and build his ludicrous wall, by taking money out of the Pentagon budget if an attempt to use emergency funding for victims of hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Texas and of wildfires in California fails.  Holding 800,000 government workers and a growing number of people and businesses depending on their services hostage, Trump now claims he never said Mexico would pay cash for the wall, in spite of videos showing the opposite.  Another video showed the results of a Home Depot saw cutting easily through the president’s preferred wall design.

As a true grifter, in a short speech from the Oval Office that resembled a hostage video but turned out to be a fundraising ploy for his campaign, for which the major networks were abused, Trump made his case to the American people.  The next day he gave candy to Nancy Pelosi and when she didn’t give him $5.7 billion for the wall in return he ran out of a meeting in the Situation Room, making the impasse complete.  Declaring a national emergency now appears to be his only way out of this mess, in spite of the fact that it will be immediately challenged in court and stayed, because even in Trump’s own words the crisis is not on the southern border but in DC.  The president can then tell his base that he tried as hard as he could and keep the wall alive as an issue for the next campaign.  Meanwhile his attempt to push other scandals off the front pages is failing.  It was revealed that Paul Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with a Russian who is still connected with his country’s security services, and on February 7th Michael Cohen will publicly testify before the House Oversight Committee about the crimes Trump ordered him to commit.

There can be no doubt that the information Manafort provided to the Russians was used to interfere in the US elections, and if Trump knew anything about it it makes a conspiracy charge even more shut than the Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Vesilnitskaya, who last week was proven to be a Russian government agent, already does.   Cohen’s testimony can be even more damaging, because for the whole world to see and hear on live television he will implicate Trump in a campaign finance violation scheme that constitutes a felony he will go to jail for.

The fact that Trump in good mafia boss tradition called Cohen ‘a rat’ indicates how fearful he is of his former fixer’s testimony.  Cohen won’t be able to talk about things prosecutors are still investigating, like the Trump Organization, but he will have enough to say.  Anticipating the fall-out of these developments the White House has added seventeen new lawyers to its staff, and Rudy Giuliani demanded to see the Mueller report before the Department of Justice decides what to do with it.

Meanwhile furloughed government workers and those working without pay are suffering, unable to pay mortgages and the like.  The Coast Guard suggested to its members to hold yard sales or become dog walkers to make ends meet.  Because for Trump the only thing that matters is ‘the tallest’ or ‘the biggest,’ at some point he will boast about being responsible for the longest shutdown, which it will be by tomorrow.

 

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De stankgolf van een gedreven journalist

De Volkskrant heeft niet zoveel abonnees in Rotterdam. Het had daar lange tijd een klein kantoor aan de Nieuwe Binnenweg. 
      Op dat kantoor hing een soort oorkonde van de Dikke van Dale. Een pamflet, waarin vermeld werd dat het nieuwe woord stankgolf geijkt was en in een volgende editie zou worden opgenomen.
Uitvinder van dat woord was mijn collega Wim Phylipsen met wie ik van eind 1971  tot half 1977 op die Rotterdamse redactie heb samengewerkt.  Vanochtend stond in de Volkskrant dat Wim Phylipsen plotseling is overleden.
      Hij was tachtig jaar.

Ik was, toen ik bij de Volkskrant begon 26 jaar en keek nogal op tegen mijn nieuwe collega's. Ik had namelijk alleen nog maar bij regionale kranten als het Leidsch Dagblad en het Dagblad De Stem gewerkt.
      De werkwijze en de instelling van de Volkskrant moest ik nog leren. Wim Phylipsen was daarbij mijn leermeester. Hij las mijn verhalen hardop voor en liet dan op subtiele vaak humoristische wijze weten hoe het beter kon. 
      Maar hij wilde dat ik zijn verhalen ook voorlas en daarbij kritiek leverde. Dat vond ik in het begin ongehoord, maar na een paar maanden was het vanzelfsprekend geworden.

Een jaar of zes geleden reageerde hij plotseling op mijn blog. Een levendige correspondentie volgde.
      Wim Phylipsen was een geboren Rotterdammer, die er altijd moeite mee had als mensen in ''zijn stad'' ''zijn krant'' een Amsterdamse krant noemden.
Hij had waardering voor de Rotterdamse mentaliteit, kende de haven bewonderenswaardig goed, had contacten op alle niveaus en was verder een karakteristieke, innemende man.

      Ik ben hem veel dank verschuldigd... .  

 

 

 

The Kremlin in DC

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The brilliant movie ‘The Death of Stalin’ shows the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR fawning over their leader, first when he’s still alive and kicking, then when he becomes unconscious after a brain hemorrhage, and even after his death.  They whisper the obligatory compliments and commendations, scared that Stalin may catch them uttering one wrong word, like the name of a former comrade who has been disposed of by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) , and fearful of what their colleagues might report to ‘the boss’ about them.  There must be a similar atmosphere in the White House, not only among staffers but also among cabinet members.  The latter was on full display yesterday, when Trump held one of those meetings where nothing of substance is being discussed but Department Secretaries are supposed to heap praise on him, after which he does them one better.  This time acting Attorney General Whitaker took the cake for effusively lauding the fact that Trump had stayed in DC over the holidays.  It was too much for Mike Pence, who chimed in that he, too, had stayed in Washington, hoping for some extra credit.

What Trump has in common with Stalin is megalomania and the inability to take responsibility for any failures, always blaming and blasting others for government actions that go awry.  Add to that the president’s pathological narcissism, and it leads to statements like: “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows,” in spite of a total lack of military experience, and “I could run for any office in Europe,” notwithstanding his extreme unpopularity in the Old World.  Sitting next to the acting Secretary of Defense Trump said that he ‘effectively’ fired Jim Mattis, something all attendees knew to be a lie, and praised the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all but inviting the Russians back there together with India, a move that would significantly boost Pakistan’s support of the Taliban and soon lead to their taking over the country.  The president, who received a bone spur deferment from serving in Vietnam thanks to a doctor who did his landlord, Trump’s father, a favor, also saw fit to make fun of ‘his’ generals, who are ‘better looking than Tom Cruise,’ and of the ‘extremely big’ guns of Secret Service members protecting him in the White House.

Fortunately, unlike Stalin Trump has a Congress to reckon with, which will probably be his downfall.  He says he won’t hesitate to force over 800,000 government workers to go without a paycheck for a prolonged period of time, half of them without a chance to ever recoup their salary, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t give him a penny for a wall that is only a useless monument to his vanity, and that Mexico was supposed to pay for to begin with.  As this conflict drags on, the dire consequences of the shutdown will accumulate, and even the GOP will have to abandon Trump.

Yesterday former Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson pointed out that there is already 700 miles of fencing in places where it makes sense on the southern border that could be somewhat expanded and complemented with technologically more advanced security tools.  So there is a deal to be made, but Trump is too ignorant of the facts to see it.  His ignorance stretches from the southern border to Syria, which he characterized as ‘death and sand’ with no ‘real wealth’ that could be taken.

When asked by Chuck Schumer to give one argument for keeping large parts of the government closed instead of continuing to discuss border security under temporary funding, Trump said: “Because opening the government would make me look foolish.”  To give us a preview yesterday he looked really foolish when he showed up in the White House press room to take some attention away from Nancy Pelosi and had nothing to say.

 

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Road Trip

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Even when Donald Trump does the right thing he fucks up.  On Tuesday he finally made his first visit to US troops in a war zone, having traveled to Iraq overnight with Melania.  Apparently the president was very concerned about his personal security, so he picked a  country that’s now relatively safe and never left the base.  He met with only a small number of servicemen, some dressed in full battle fatigues who turned out to be members of the Navy Seals 5 team, which raised suspicion that the whole thing was staged as a reality show.  In his speech Trump lied to the troops that he was the first president to give them a pay raise in ten years, and got into his usual rant about ‘the wall,’ shamelessly using members of the military as props to promote his domestic policies.  The president defended his decision to withdraw all troops from Syria by characterizing Americans as the ‘suckers’ of the world, who always do other countries’ fighting without getting appropriately compensated, suggesting that he’s willing to pimp out US soldiers as mercenaries if the price is right.  The fact that Trump didn’t meet with any of Iraq’s leaders made some of them demand that all US troops leave their country.

The visit followed a couple of days when Trump was home alone in the White House, after acting like a high school student whose sweetheart broke up with him by forcing Jim Mattis out per January 1st and then closing the government.  The president complained about his loneliness, pretended to sign bills that don’t exist, and claimed to have signed a contract for the construction of 115 miles of the wall, something a US President typically doesn’t do.  In the process he shortened the wall from 2,000 to 515 miles and reduced it from a concrete contraption to a metal fence.  The fact that every entity Trump was ever involved with, from the Trump organization and foundation to his campaign, inaugural committee and administration, is now under investigation is taking its toll, and in an Oval Office meeting with the press pool the president fulminated about the Mueller probe and how the Democrats are out to get him, finishing with a heartfelt ‘Merry Christmas anyway.’  Trump also claimed to have received overwhelming encouragement from furloughed government workers to keep their departments closed, which is a miracle since the White House cannot be reached because of the shutdown.

During this week the background of Trump’s decision to pull the troops out of Syria came into focus.  The president seems to think that Saudi Arabia and Turkey have leverage over the US, the former because they ‘buy lots of stuff,’ and the latter for reasons nobody understands.   Records show that a phone call with Erdogan contributed to Trump’s decision, and pundits speculate that the Turkish president told Trump US troops would be in harm’s way when Turkey goes after the Syrian Kurds, who have been America’s most reliable allies, en passant promising that Turkey would also take care of ISIS.

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani opened his Pandora’s box of confused opinions in an interview with ‘The Hill,’ basically admitting that Trump is guilty of everything he has ever been accused of but that none of it is a crime.   Meanwhile McClatchy claims that there is hard evidence that places Michael Cohen in Prague in August 2016 coordinating interference in the elections with the Russians.  If this is true Robert Mueller knows it already, despite Cohen’s understandable denials, and the collusion, or rather conspiracy, case is closed.

Because of this latest information Mueller’s report, which might come out in February, is expected to be another bombshell, and we might even get to see the pee-pee tape before all is said and done.   It is questionable if Matt Whitaker, the acting Attorney General, will still be involved in the decision whether to release the report, after the news has broken  that he listed Academic All American honors which he never earned on his resumé.


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