Media (337)



(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

This should have been Donald Trump’s week.  After he had an argument over the grave about America’s greatness  with John McCain the president was ready for a big success.  He expected his boy Kavanaugh to sail smoothly through the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice, creating a majority that would protect him from prosecution, overrule Roe v. Wade and end Obamacare.  But then Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ came out, describing ‘a White House in a nervous breakdown.’   What must have hurt Trump the most was that John Kelly called him an idiot and said that ‘we are in crazytown,’ and that according to Jim Mattis the president cannot absorb more information than a 5th or 6th grader.   Kelly and Mattis were the first to put out statements that they never said those things, but Woodward has tapes of interviews with his sources and nobody believes their denials.   On one of those tapes Trump said that he had never been told that Woodward wanted to interview him, although he later remembered that Lindsey Graham had mentioned it.  Without an interview with him the president concluded with some chagrin that the book would not mention that ‘nobody has ever done a better job in the White House.’

According to the book Trump’s confidence in the effect of an interview with him was not shared by his previous lawyer, John Dowd, who staged a mock Mueller interview and after Trump miserably failed the test told him that he should never submit himself to an interview with the Special Counsel or expect to end up in an orange jumpsuit.  The next day Dowd quit.   And as if Woodward’s book was not damaging enough, on Wednesday the New York Times published an Op-Ed written by an anonymous senior government official, entitled ‘The Quiet Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.’  The thrust of the article is that because of his amorality and erratic behavior the president is a danger to the country, and that senior officials sabotage his most dangerous initiatives and try to shield their operations from his whims.  Predictably the White House went into a full attack mode against the writer of the Op-Ed, demanding that the New York Times turn him over to the government for ‘national security purposes.’  More balanced and somewhat amusing comments came from Republican senators Corker, Flake and Sasse, who said that the Op-Ed really doesn’t contain anything we didn’t know already.

Kavanaugh in the meantime got himself into trouble during the confirmation hearings, partly by the evasive answers he gave to questions from Democratic senators, but even more by e-mails he wrote when he worked in the Bush White House, which indicate that he would overturn Roe v. Wade, in spite of assurances to the contrary he gave senator Collins, a possible swing vote.  It made the Democrats wonder what the White House is trying to hide by refusing to make 90% of Kavanaugh’s White House records available.

Since Rudy Giuliani has announced that Trump won’t answer Mueller’s questions, not even in writing, Kavanaugh’s confirmation takes on extra importance, because the question whether a sitting president can be supoenaed may very well come before SCOTUS.  Although he has been nominated by a non-indicted co-conspirator in the Michael Cohen case Kavanaugh won’t promise that he’ll recuse himself if this is the case.

In the White House Trump’s staff is still looking for the writer of the Op-Ed, but Trump cannot trust anybody anymore, except maybe Ivanka.  There is an echo of Watergate here, when Mark Felt, the Associate FBI Director, was given the assignment to identify ‘Deep Throat.’ The problem was, Felt wàs Deep Throat, and therefore he never found him.

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(Ontvangen van Theo Uittenbogaard)






The I-word

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Last week Donald Trump mentioned ‘impeachment’ once in a Fox News interview, but in the White House he uses ‘the I-word,’ an indication of how much it’s on his mind.  As the midterms approach the president realizes that he’ll be in deep trouble if the Democrats take control of the House.  His administration will be paralyzed by the investigations that will be initiated, and impeachment procedures will probably start almost immediately.  For now Trump can trust his lackeys in the senate to keep him in the Oval Office, but there is no telling what will happen if the elections result in carnage for the GOP and senators get worried about their own prospects  in 2020.  The president doesn’t make things easier for the Republican Party, because while he is often a kingmaker in the primaries the candidates he endorses and that share his views will be vulnerable against their Democratic opponents.  He doesn’t make things easier for himself either, because on Wednesday he announced with a tweet that Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, will leave his job in the fall, leaving a depleted and inexperienced office behind for what will most likely be a ferocious fight with the congress.

It is unclear if this departure, of which the sudden announcement surprised McGahn, is related to the fact that the president’s main legal advisor spent over 30 hours being interviewed by Robert Mueller, and that Trump’s legal team has no clue what he told the Special Counsel.  McGahn was strongly opposed to the idea of firing Jeff Sessions, but the president’s rhetoric and cave-ins by senators like Graham and Grassley makes that ever more likely, albeit not before the elections.  In the meantime Trump’s legal problems are still growing.  It turns out that Paul Manafort was looking for a plea deal to avoid his second trial, and although nothing was finalized there are signs that negotiations are ongoing.  Of the American public 61% approves of the Mueller probe, while only 31% disapproves, and those numbers are much better than Trump’s own approval ratings.  Because he can see a potential catastrophe coming the president is now predicting that the economy will collapse and most Americans will become miserably poor if he were to be impeached, because the country would lose the benefit of his brain.  Even more ominously, Trump is predicting violence if the Democrats win a House majority.

Meanwhile the president must feel like a stranger in DC.  Senator John McCain planned his own funeral services in such a way that all the media attention will be for him this week.  Trump already showed what a spiteful mental midget he is by initially refusing to put out a statement about the senator’s death and to fly the White House flag half staff, and tomorrow he’ll be exiled to Camp David, because he’s unwelcome at the funeral where George W. Bush and Obama will speak, and someone explained to him that playing golf at one of his courses would really be inappropriate.

More bad news came from a report about the damage Hurricane Maria did on Puerto Rico, with an estimate of 2,975 deaths, 2911 more than the official government estimate Trump has stood by so far.  A staged phone call with the Mexican president about a bilateral agreement replacing NAFTA failed completely, creating the image of the president as a helpless old man who doesn’t understand basic technology, while the actual agreement is surprisingly similar to the old NAFTA.

Yesterday it became clear that the infamous phone call between Trump and Michael Cohen that was recorded by Cohen was not just about buying the Karen McDougal story from the National Enquirer, but about buying the paper’s whole collection of mostly salacious information about Trump that goes thirty years back.  With David Pecker talking to prosecutors it’s unlikely that Trump will ever get his hands on it.

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The Illegitimate Presidency

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

At the end of last week Rudy Giuliani capped off his statements that Trump never talked about Flynn with Comey and that the campaign didn’t  know that they were going to meet with Russians in Trump Tower with the epistemological paradigm shift that ‘truth is not truth,’ sending shockwaves through philosophy departments around the country.  From there on things got only worse.  First Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 of 18 counts in a Virginia courtroom, with one juror holding out on 10 of the charges, and a couple of minutes later in New York Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws.  As long as Manafort doesn’t flip on Trump, which is still a possibility because he faces another trial in DC in a couple of weeks and will spend the rest of his life in jail if Trump doesn’t pardon him, Cohen, who promised to tell prosecutors the whole truth about Trump’s campaign and businesses, represents the most danger for the president.   The former fixer started making good on his promise by informing the court that he had acted on Trump’s instructions when in 2016 he tried to buy the silence of Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels about their affairs with Trump.

In a Fox News interview Trump declared that no campaign finance laws were violated because he reimbursed Cohen with his own and not with campaign money, but the president clearly doesn’t understand the law.  A contribution to his own campaign should have been reported to the Federal Election Commission and publicly disclosed.  Deliberately omitting such a contribution, as was the case here, makes it a felony.  The payment to Stormy Daniels was made one day after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape came out, providing the context that its immediate purpose was to affect the outcome of the election, which makes it a criminal conspiracy.  In all his ignorance the president incriminated himself by admitting to the hush money payments, but his problems didn’t end there.  According to his lawyer, Lanny Davis, Cohen witnessed Trump’s ‘awareness’ of the hacking of Democrats’ emails before they were released by Wikileaks, and there is even a mysterious reimbursement of $50,000 to Cohen by the Trump Organization for unspecified ‘tech services,’ which according to the Steele dossier may very well have been for a payment to the Russian hackers.

From a Trump golf course in Scotland Hizzoner issued a statement that the president’s problems have not affected his golf game, but that was before the news broke that the civil suit filed by the State of New York against the Trump Foundation, Donald Trump and his three oldest children will probably result in a criminal investigation.  To make the president’s legal jeopardy complete, a lawsuit against Trump and his former bodyguard Keith Schiller for violent behavior outside of Trump Tower in 2015 will also go forward.

A real shocker was the immunity given to David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, and to Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization.  Pecker is a Trump confidant who was instrumental in the ‘catch and kill’ operation to silence Karen McDougal and has a safe full of information about Trump’s dalliances, while Weisselberg was involved in making illegal reimbursements to Cohen and a host of shady business dealings.

Apparently contradicting Giuliani’s assessment of his mental state, in the Fox News interview Trump lashed out at Jeff Sessions and used mob terminology to argue against the practice of turning suspects into cooperating witnesses, so that we could enjoy the spectacle of the US President advocating that law enforcement be denied one of its most important tools.

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Lordy, There Are Tapes

(Door Hugo KIjne te Hoboken USA)

Last Sunday Rudy Giuliani produced a shocker on one of the morning talk shows when he said that Trump never spoke with former FBI Director James Comey about Michael Flynn.  It was confusing, because a couple of weeks earlier Hizzoner had mentioned on a similar show that Trump and Comey had indeed spoken about Flynn, and tried to clarify that Trump’s request to ‘let Flynn go’ had not been an order and therefore didn’t constitute obstruction of justice.  Giuliani held the attention of TV viewers for about half an hour, because on the next show Omarosa plugged her new book about the Trump White House, ‘Unhinged,’ by making a tape of her being fired by John Kelly in the Situation Room public.  Two days later she followed up with a tape of a phone call with Trump, who said that he didn’t know about and didn’t approve of her being fired.  The third tape she released was a recording of a call from 2016 with two people from the Trump campaign about how to deal with Trump’s having used the N-word, and the fourth a recording of a call after she had been fired with Lara Trump, Eric’s wife, who offered her $15,000/month from the Trump campaign, essentially to keep her mouth shut.

Trump’s response to Omarosa’s performances came in stages.  First he tweeted that he had hired her in spite of a lack of qualifications because she said ‘nice things’ about him.  Then he called her ‘a lowlife,’ and finally he tweeted that she was ‘wacky, not smart, vicious’ and ‘a dog.’  She was getting to him because as his sorcerer’s apprentice she was clearly better at playing the reality TV game, which was even recognized by Fox & Friends – his favorite show – where one of the anchors observed that she ‘outsmarted’ Trump.  And Omarosa was not the president’s only problem.  Paul Manafort’s trial was about to come to a close and would probably give Robert Mueller his first major success, which would empower the Special Counsel.  To get Omarosa and Manafort off the front pages Trump decided to do something drastic and revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, one of his strongest critics, according to Sarah Sanders at a press briefing because of Brennan’s ‘erratic’ behavior, but according to Trump in a later interview because of Brennan’s role in the Russia investigation.  Trump also indicated that he had an ‘enemies list’ of people whose security clearances were under review.

Trump’s vindictive action against Brennan is without precedent.  Former leaders of the intelligence community keep their security clearances so that they can be consulted in crisis situations, and there is an official list of fourteen reasons why a clearance can be removed, as well as a process that must be followed.  Erratic behavior is not on the list, and since Trump completely ignored the prescribed process his behavior can only be characterized as dictatorial, and belongs in a banana-republic, not in a democracy.

The date on the official release of Trump’s decision is July 26th, which indicates that the White House has waited for an opportune moment to make it public.  With the firing of Peter Strzok, apparently under pressure from the White House, the damage done this week to the US intelligence services is considerable, and former leaders of those services have strongly protested against Trump’s action, while Putin is getting his money’s worth.

Meanwhile the Trump camp is not done.  Yesterday the news surfaced that the president has ordered Jeff Sessions to have Omarosa arrested, and Giuliani has threatened Mueller with a ‘ton of bricks’ coming down on him if he doesn’t wrap up his investigation in two or three weeks.  Both are empty threats, and neither of those things is going to happen.

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