Back to the Base

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On Monday Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, filed a motion in federal court stating that Stormy Daniels had broken her non-disclosure agreement, effectively confirming that she had spoken the truth in her 60 Minutes interview.  On Friday Trump told reporters that he didn’t know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy and had had nothing to do with it, which means that he could not have been a party to the agreement and therefore there was no agreement.  It was that kind of a week for Trump.  On Tuesday it turned out that Mueller had informed Trump’s lawyers that Trump is a ‘subject’ of the Russia investigation, but not a ‘target.’  Trump expressed his profound relief by trumpeting his new status around, which shows that he doesn’t know how fast a subject, a person under investigation, can become a target, a person about to be charged.  One easy way for Trump to change his status is lying to Mueller during an interview.  The president keeps saying that he wants to sit down with Mueller and answer his questions, but since he’s been lying more than five times per day since the beginning of his presidency it’s unlikely that he’d get through an interview unscathed.

Other than dealing with Trump’s status, Mueller has been active in many other areas.  In August 2017 Rod Rosenstein had given the Special Counsel permission to look into Paul Manafort’s connections with the Russians.  Questions to be answered are how Manafort landed in the Trump campaign, why he offered to work for free, if maybe someone other than the Trump campaign paid him, and with what kind of intentions he became the campaign chairman.  This line of questioning may very well move the investigation from collusion to conspiracy.  Mueller is now also looking into business dealings by Manafort that are not yet covered by his earlier indictment, meaning that Manafort could be looking at double the prison time he’s looking at right now.  Another expansion of the investigation is into Cohen’s role in the Trump organization, which means that Trump’s own business practices are now under scrutiny.  In spite of his professed innocence of any crimes, these developments have caused erratic behavior by Trump, who probably decided that he had to shore up his base to be able to challenge future revelations from Mueller and the ‘fake news’ press.

Trump did that with two speeches.  On Easter Monday, standing between Melania and a bunny rabbit, he surprised an audience of toddlers during the White House egg roll with a tirade about DACA, strengthening the military and the dangers of ‘Democrat supported’ immigration.  In a speech later in the week Trump threw away his prepared remarks to ramble about tariffs, withdrawal from Syria and having the National Guard patrol the Mexican border, which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Republican commentator Steve Schmidt characterized Trump as ‘a drunk at the end of the bar in Queens.’  With regards to the tariffs on imports from China the president has been going back and forth, most recently announcing more tariffs, while his main advisors are hopelessly divided.  China’s retaliation will directly be aimed at products from states where Trump has a strong following and hurt his voters, and his trade war rhetoric has sent the stock market into a tailspin.

Scott Pruitt is setting a world record in corruption, nepotism and other abuses of his office at the EPA, but Trump is still considering him as a replacement for Jeff Sessions, while his Chief of Staff wants to fire Pruitt.  In the meantime departing National Security Advisor HR McMaster’s farewell present is a packet of strong sanctions on Russian olicharchs meant to inflict pain on Putin.

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