Media (386)

 

No Nothing is Something

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On the eve of Robert Mueller’s testimony in the House Trump was clearly worried. ‘There was no collusion, no obstruction, no nothing,’ he trumpeted to the White House press corps on the South Lawn, calling Mueller ‘very conflicted,’ not only because he was Jim Comey’s best friend but also because he had a major conflict with Trump himself.  In a response Comey informed the media that he and Mueller are not friends and haven’t spoken each other in three years, and it is common knowledge that the ‘major’ conflict was about the membership fee of one of Trump’s golf courses that Mueller considered too high.  The former Special Counsel decided to cancel his membership and go play somewhere else, and has probably already forgotten about it, but since it is about money it is automatically major for Trump, whose father taught him to pick up nails at construction sites so that they could be re-used and whose greed and stinginess have no limits. The very first question from Chairman Nadler to Mueller was ‘was there obstruction?’ and the answer was ‘yes.’ The second question was ‘was there exoneration?’ and the answer was ‘no.’

Mueller’s testimony for the Judiciary Committee could have stopped there and then, but every member had to have his or her five minutes in the sun, and while the Democrats without much success tried to elicit useful information from Mueller, who stuck to the content of his report as he had announced in advance and often simply referred to it, the Republicans were engaged in a grandstanding competition of which one of the highlights was the statement that ‘collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy,’ a line selectively quoted from the report which is correct according to most dictionaries but not according to criminal law, where conspiracy is defined but collusion is not.  Another gem was the observation that ‘deciding to exonerate or not is not a Department of Justice tradition,’ which was somewhat out of place because the report neither exonerated Trump nor accused him of a crime.  A low point was the attack on Mueller’s character by Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan, a thug who knew about sexual abuse in a wrestling program he once coached for but said nothing about it.  The contrast with Mueller could not have been clearer.

Halfway Mueller’s testimony Trump was pretty happy about it and re-tweeted Fox News’ Chris Wallace’s assessment that Mueller’s performance was a disaster for the Democrats.  Of course the president can only process visual information, so the images of screaming Republicans left a positive impression with him while he didn’t register questions that were carefully crafted by Democrats.  However, chances are that by nighttime Trump was not as jolly as at 12 noon.

In response to Democratic questioning Mueller revealed that in answers to written questions the president had been less than truthful while under oath, and responding to a now deeply regretted Republican question Mueller confirmed that Trump can still be indicted after leaving office, meaning that he has to win in 2020 to run out the clock on the statute of limitations and stay out of jail.

In all the fuzz about Mueller’s testimony it almost escaped attention that on Monday Trump said that he could win the war in Afghanistan in a week by wiping the country off the face of the earth.  Meanwhile the president’s Doral property is in competition to host the G7 meeting, even though he’s still being sued for violating the emoluments clause.


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Send Her Back

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump has always been a racist.  His father Fred, who was his role model, marched with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s, and when Donald joined him in the real estate business together they kept black tenants out of their apartments, until they were caught and had to settle and pay.  When Donald ran casinos in Atlantic City with daddy’s money and came visiting, black employees were rushed off the floor so that he wouldn’t have to see them.  He took out a full page advertisement to demand the death penalty for the Central Park Five, five black teenagers who were accused of raping a female jogger but later exonerated after DNA testing, and even after they were set free Trump still maintained that they were guilty.  Trump’s ‘birtherism’ claimed that Barack Obama had not been born in the USA, and that therefore Obama’s presidency was illegitimate, and as a presidential candidate he demanded that all Muslims be denied access to the US, something he tried to implement as president.  He called African countries ‘shitholes’, and this week he launched an attack on four female members of the House with a minority background.

Initially Trump said that the four radical members of the Democratic caucus, known as ‘the squad,’ who according to him ‘are trying to tear our country down,’ should go back to where they came from, but when he was informed that three of them were born in the USA he focused on Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and immigrated when she was twelve years old.  At a campaign rally Wednesday night the president singled her out and got his crowd to chant ‘send her back,’ approvingly nodding his head for at least fifteen seconds.  On Thursday he falsely claimed that he had tried to stop the chanting and disapproved of it, but also suggested that Omar might at one point have been married to her brother.  It is still unclear what Trump is trying to achieve with his hate-spewing language.  He wants the squad to be the face of the Democratic Party, and achieved that the House condemned his racism while a motion to impeach him because of it was tabled, but if his strategy is to add every racist who has not yet voted for him to his base it is a monumentally stupid one, because he’ll lose more votes from moderates and independents than he gains.

Trump is a day-trader, so long term strategy is not exactly his thing and it’s likely that his prejudiced  instincts let him stumble into something that feels comfortable to him but that frightens both Republican strategists and House members.  The latter have so far given Trump coverage by collectively voting against the House motion that castigated his racism, but they also asked Vice President Pence in a closed meeting to make Trump distance himself from his recent rhetoric.  Meanwhile the president has united House Democrats who started the week with serious internal divisions.

In New York City child rapist Jeffrey Epstein was denied bail, but not before a video surfaced showing Trump and Epstein partying at Mar-a-Lago in 1992 with at least two dozen young female models.  Epstein is looking at 45 years in prison, and considering what he must know about his circle of friends – to which Trump once belonged – and business associates, chances are that he will start ‘singing’ to prosecutors as part of a plea deal, and many powerful men might be implicated.

Also in New York the Southern District declared the campaign finance law violation case that sent Michael Cohen to jail closed, but also revealed that contrary to Trump’s denials there had been intensive communications between Cohen and Trump, a non-indicted co-conspirator, all through the payoff of Stormy Daniels that followed the release of the Access Hollywood tape.


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The White House of Horrors

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
 
The week started with very disturbing reporting by the New York Times and other media about the abysmal conditions in child detention centers, more aptly named torture camps, managed by the US Border Patrol.  Diseases spreading among hungry, scared children in dirty clothes, who don’t have enough room to sleep and can’t take a shower. Retaliation against little boys who complained about water with a chlorine taste, by taking their sleeping mats away, and at least one case of sexual assault of a teenage girl by a Border Patrol agent.  Although some of this information came directly from Border Patrol agents, true to form Trump called the NY Times reporting ‘a hoax’ and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the reports were ‘not substantiated,’ while his subordinate Ken Cuccinelli called the facilities ‘safe.’  Abuse of minors became the theme of the week with the arrest at Teterboro Airport of hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, someone Trump once called a ‘terrific guy,’ who was ‘a lot of fun to be with,’ but with whom he claims to have had a falling out ‘a long time ago,’ allowing him now to say that he is ‘not a fan.’

Over the years Epstein molested and raped possibly hundreds of teenage girls.  In 2008 he was convicted in Florida for a reduced charge of ‘soliciting a 14-year-old girl for prostitution.’  He got a sweetheart deal of 13 months in ‘custody with work release,’ in return for which no federal charges would be filed, and had to register as a sex offender.  This week the Southern District of New York filed charges against Epstein for sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York.  The US Attorney who originally let Epstein off the hook is Alex Acosta, now Trump’s Secretary of Labor, who among other things is in charge of combating human trafficking.  Epstein’s deal was struck in secret meetings between his high-powered lawyers and Acosta, who was ordered by Trump to defend himself in a press conference on Wednesday.  There were no apologies from the Labor Secretary, not even an acknowledgement that the deal he struck was illegal because Epstein’s victims had not been informed about it.  The Florida prosecutor whom Acosta blamed for the deal immediately issued a scathing statement saying that Acosta ‘doesn’t get to rewrite history.’

Trump doesn’t like people who admit mistakes and apologize, so he was pleased with Acosta’s performance and said that he feels ‘very bad’ for his Secretary, who according to him is doing a ‘terrific job.’  In spite of Trump’s support Acosta announced his resignation today.  Almost as peculiar as Trump’s connections to Epstein and Acosta is Attorney General William Barr’s situation.  Barr is obviously Acosta’s colleague, but he also knew Epstein because his father gave Epstein his first job.  Initially Barr recused himself, but then he unrecused himself for what is still to come in this case.

In legal matters Trump had wins and losses.  He is no longer allowed to block followers on Twitter, but a lawsuit filed by Maryland and DC about his violating the emoluments clause won’t go forward.  A lawsuit filed by the House on this issue is still in the courts, and probably this week an Appeals Court will rule on the future of Obamacare, and may very well take health insurance away from 21 million Americans and protection from pre-existing conditions from 133 million others.

Both Barr and Trump have said that they have no problem with Robert Mueller’s testifying in Congress on July 17th, but panic is apparently setting in.  Barr now speaks of a ‘public spectacle’ and is trying to keep members of Mueller’s team from also testifying.  Finally, yesterday Trump took a big loss  and had to acknowledge that he cannot have a citizenship question inserted in the 2020 Census.

 

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Trump’s Gettysburg Address

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump got his parade, albeit not on Pennsylvania Avenue but in the air above it.  Yesterday, on the Fourth of July, he tried to shine at a made for television event that was all about him, while he pretended that  it was about the US military.  Flanked by two tanks Trump initially mistook for Shermans, a model that was retired in 1957, he gave a speech that was partly a half-baked State of the Union address and partly an 8th grade history lesson, obviously written for him by others.  For once the president didn’t ad-lib to what he read from the teleprompter, but that didn’t salvage his presentation, because he is who and what he is.  When he tries to be solemn Donald Trump becomes slightly amusing, especially when he turns his head like a peacock after successfully finishing a whole sentence.  When he tries to be inclusive he reminds the thinking part of his audience of his racism, and his attempts to share a halo with American heroes serve as a reminder that he’s a draft-dodger.  The president may even have done some damage to himself, because his disingenuous remarks about Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and the Civil War probably shocked and angered the overtly fascist part of his base.

The flyovers of aircraft used by the different branches of the military and the renditions of their songs were meant to be the highlight of a week that started with an impromptu visit to Korea’s demilitarized zone, where Trump shook hands with Kim Jong-un and took a couple of steps into North Korea, calling it ‘an honor.’  The two leaders agreed to resume negotiations about denuclearization, but the next day the NY Times reported that the administration would consider accepting just a ‘freeze’ of North Korea’s program, effectively allowing it to remain a nuclear power.   The White House denied this news, but from Mongolia, where Trump had sent him instead of taking him to the G20, John Bolton demanded that the ‘reprehensible’ leaker be found.  It appears that Bolton is not the only Trump advisor who has fallen out of grace, because instead of Sean Hannity Tucker Carlson advised the president on whether to bomb Iran or not and accompanied him to the Far East.  Both at the G20 and in the aftermath of the meeting with Kim Jong-un that she called ‘surreal’ Ivanka Trump made a complete ass of herself, which may be why it was considered better for her not to attend the July 4th celebration.

In spite of the careful choreography Trump slipped in his speech when he claimed that the Continental Army had taken airports from the British in the 18th century, and that was not his only gaffe of the week.  Asked for his opinion about Western Liberalism he started talking about Democratic mayors in California, and in response to a question about bussing as a desegregation tool the president said: “There are only so many ways to get to school and people have been taking the bus for ages.”  He also called homelessness a two year old problem caused by liberals.

Worse than the ignorance evidenced by those remarks was Trump’s assessment of the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.  He claimed that the asylum seekers in his torture camps are living in much better conditions than where they came from, and said that it’s ‘too bad’ if they don’t like those conditions, but that then they shouldn’t have come.  It proved once more that cruelty is not a bi-product of the policy, but that cruelty serving as a deterrent for potential future migrants is the policy.

And although the Commerce and Justice Departments had already decided to comply with a Surpreme Court ruling and not to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census the president instructed them to find a justification for inserting  such a question that would persuade the Court to change its position.  Government lawyers have until this afternoon to come up with something, so stay tuned.


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Countdown to Mueller

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It’s not entirely clear if Trump lied about being informed in the last minute that there might be 150 casualties as a result of bombing military installations in Iran, and only because he asked ‘his very smart generals.’  Since these kinds of determinations are made in the earliest stages of the planning process it’s more likely that the president was briefed but simply forgot, or that he decided to put on an act that allowed him to draw out the following teaser: “Am I going to bomb the shit out of Iran?  Who knows, maybe we’ll find out next week, stay tuned folks.”  For Trump it’s all show business.  Be that as it may, the president is now 3 for 3 in calling off threats he made earlier.  First the tariffs on Mexican products, then the bombing of Iranian targets, and most recently the rounding up and expelling of ‘millions’ of undocumented immigrants, a number that upon verification turned out to be two thousand.  The threat of mass deportations was made as the debate about the president’s immigration policies intensified because of recent revelations about the revolting conditions in which migrant children are being kept in Border Patrol facilities.

Human rights lawyers who visited these torture camps told horror stories of overcrowding, teenagers caring for babies, children sleeping on concrete floors without blankets,  unsanitary conditions, diseases, unhealthy food and no soap and toothbrushes.  When asked about these reports Trump blamed it all on the Democrats, who had not made enough funding available to solve these problems.  The modern fascism that’s being practiced on the southern border was really exposed when a picture of a Guatemalan father with his almost two year old daughter, drowned in the Rio Grande while holding each other, hit the television screens and front pages.  Again Trump blamed the Democrats and said that everything was now much better than under Barack Obama, which may be the most blatant lie of his presidency so far.  It’s true that deportations increased significantly under Obama, but illegal border crossings were at an all time low because Obama didn’t shut down points of entry trying to force asylum seekers to stay in Mexico, and families were not separated unless children were considered at risk of being abused.

As a reminder that the US President is a sexual harasser and a rapist the writer E. Jean Carroll published a segment of her latest book that describes how in 1996 she was attacked and penetrated by Donald J. Trump in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman.  Apart from the fact that Ms. Carroll told two friends of the assault at the time, the pattern of Trump’s behavior exactly followed the scenario he laid out in the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.   Trump’s response was classic: the victim was ‘not his type’ or, in other words, not worth raping.

After lengthy negotiations and two subpoenas it was announced that on July 17th Robert Mueller will testify to the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and that most of his testimony will be public.  It is expected that Democrats will ask the former Special Counsel to read, and on occasion explain, passages of his report describing collusion and obstruction of justice.  In anticipation Trump accused Mueller of the crime of having ‘eliminated’ 19,000 text messages.

On his way to the G20 meeting in Japan the president succeeded in insulting pretty much every American ally before he joked with Putin about Russia’s interference in upcoming  US elections.  Back home the Supreme Court established that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had lied about a citizenship question in the census, but it also allowed gerrymandering of districs by the states.


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