Planet Trump

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump has moved beyond Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts and up to a galaxy where every connection with reality is accidental.  Last Sunday America and South Korea signed an agreement that implies that South Korea will start paying $70 million per year more for the presence of the US military on its soil.  On Tuesday the president told his press pool that South Korea is now paying $500 million per year more, causing the government in Seoul to question his sanity, albeit only behind closed doors.  Something even more bizarre happened at a Trump rally in El Paso, Texas.  In one single speech the president declared ‘I have built the wall,’ followed by ‘we are building the wall’ and finally ‘I will build the wall.’  He urged his followers to adopt the slogan ‘Finish the Wall,’ while fact checkers established that during Trump’s presidency not a single new piece of border fencing has been erected and that no construction is under way.   To confuse the pundits even more Trump flashed a new version of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign slogan ‘Stronger Together,’ which didn’t work then and won’t work now.

In his speech the president also made the false claim that after a local wall had been built crime in El Paso went down significantly, while in fact for decennia the city has been one of the safest in the US.  El Paso was a strange location for a Trump rally to begin with, since its population is for 80% Hispanic and it is the hometown of Beto O’Rourke, who used the opportunity to stage a counter-rally and raise his national profile.  According to the president his event attracted a crowd of 35,000 and O’Rourke’s about 300, while the police estimated both crowds to be of a similar size of about 8,000.  The strangest moment of the night occurred when Trump pretended to be walking a dog on the White House lawn, although it may be have been a sign that he realizes how badly he needs a friend in DC.  Back in the Oval Office the president made it known that he was ‘not happy’ with the final result of bi-partisan negotiations about a spending agreement, although he seemed to realize that he would have to accept it to avoid another shutdown and even called Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity at FOX NEWS to ask for their permission.

Developments with regards to funding for the wall over the last year have showcased Trump’s total lack of negotiating skills.  A year ago, with a Republican majority in the House and support from the Democrats in exchange for a DACA arrangement, he could have gotten $25 billion for the wall but turned it down.  Last December he could have gotten $1.6 billion instead of the $5.7 billion he demanded, but decided to shut down the government, knowing that the Democratic majority in the House would not give him more and incurring serious damage.  According to the current bill he’ll get $1.3 billion.

Meanwhile in the Mueller probe all eyes are on a summer 2016 meeting between Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort, his deputy, Rick Gates, and Russian agent Konstantin Kilimnik a block away from Trump Tower at the height of the campaign.  Mueller’s team seems to think that a deal was made exchanging Russian support for Trump in the election for a promise to lift sanctions on Russia and to accept its claim on Crimea and its warfare in Ukraine.  Obviously, the $1,000 question is: did Trump know?

This morning the president signed the bi-partisan budget bill and simltaneously declared a national emergency so that he can use another $6.7 billion, mostly from Department of Defense funds, to build the wall.  His declaration can be undone by a Joint Resolution of Termination by Congress or in the courts, because it is a flagrant violation of Article 1 of the Constitution, but if all of that fails it is a big step towards totalitarianism in the US.

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