Saturday, April 4, 2020

Trump Fires Mick Mulvaney and Sends Him Back to Ireland; Mark Meadows New CoS

I can’t wait until the Irish Times weighs in on this one, as they assuredly will. On Friday night Donald Trump fired Mick Mulvaney, who had been his acting chief of staff for a little over eleven months. That’s five months longer than Reince Priebus and five months less than John Kelly. Now in comes Mark Meadows to be Trump chief of staff number four, while Mulvaney ships out to become the U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, a post which is so crucial it has sat unfilled for the past three years. The position of Special Envoy was an idea that Bill Clinton had in order to resolve The Troubles in Northern Ireland. What I’m sure the Irish have already figured out, or they will when they wake up tomorrow and find out that Mulvaney is coming, is that their troubles have only just begun. Mulvaney will be as successful in the role of top diplomat as Oliver Cromwell was as public relations director back in the day. There are plenty of dumb micks messing up life in Northern Ireland and they don’t need the one named Mulvaney, but Donald Trump has spoken and that’s that. New York Times: Mr. Trump’s decision to push out Mr. Mulvaney came as the president confronted a coronavirus outbreak that has unsettled much of the country, threatened the economy and posed a new challenge to his re-election campaign. But the decision was seen as a long-delayed move cleaning up in the aftermath of the Senate impeachment trial as he shuffles his inner circle for the eight-month sprint to Election Day. […] The replacement was widely seen in the West Wing as a chance for the president to reinvigorate his staff, over which Mr. Mulvaney was seen as losing control. In Mr. Meadows, Mr. Trump will have an ally whom he has treated as a confidant and a bellwether of congressional conservatives for much of his term. Mr. Meadows takes over as Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, returns on Monday in a new role working for Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. The truth of the matter is that there is no chief of staff other than Jared and that’s always been the case. Mulvaney had Trump’s number in 2016 when he called him “a terrible human being.” He should have stayed with that opinion, he’d have saved himself a lot of grief. Let’s wish Mulvaney much happiness in his promotion to the Night Watch. It is cold at that latitude, take a warm coat.

Melania Skewered For Tone Deaf Photo Op While We’re In A Pandemic

Melania is getting trounced on Twitter, once again, due to yet another vintage tone deaf moment. It’s not as bad as “I Really Don’t Care, Do U,” nothing could be. And it hasn’t quite gotten to the level of “let them eat cake” but we’re getting there. No, Melania is doing a photo op on her pet project, renovating the White House tennis pavilion while Washington burns — more or less. Oblivious. I am excited to share the progress of the Tennis Pavillion at @WhiteHouse. Thank you to the talented team for their hard work and dedication. — Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) March 5, 2020 Earth to Melania: Regular people are worried about the stock market plunging, because even if they don’t have money in it, they know it’s a sign of hard economic times to come and they’re already there. Regular people are concerned about the death toll from the coronavirus mounting, while there’s yet another delay in the promised 2,500 testing kits going out — and now they find out they’re going to have to pay for testing. Ordinary folks are in no position to climb into the bubble world you and hubby exist in, we’re forced to live in the real one. Americans died and lost their homes in Tennessee, but Melania Trump concerned about wasting tax payer money on a tennis pavilion. The victims would appreciate a visit and support.😳 #TennesseeTornado #TennesseeStrong — Jules Morgan (@glamelegance) March 5, 2020 My classroom doesn't have books or pencils. — Mari Jeranek Errico (@mteaches) March 5, 2020 And so it goes. Melania is not going to go down in the history books as particularly loved, any more than hubby will. It’s a shame that all of Trump’s money can’t be used to buy a clue. If Melania was on the Titantic, she’d be doing a photo op on recovering the deck chairs and thinking nothing of it. She’s one of the ones guaranteed a life boat. For the rest of us? Glub glub. Yet we’re not supposed to get upset over this idiocy.

Trump’s Nomination of John Ratcliffe Is A Smokescreen, Allowing Him To Keep Ric Grenell

Life in Washington these days is definitely a bad reality TV show, no question about it. Characters that have proven unsuccessful when first tried out are now coming back for a second debut — as if anything has changed. And unexpected plot twists are always welcome, such as the one Donald Trump has possibly planned for Richard Grenell. There’s a lot of speculation that John Ratcliffe is being used merely as a place saver, so Trump can do an end run around the rules and keep Grenell around. Read on. You probably remember all the frou frou last summer about Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe being nominated for Director of National Intelligence and the nomination being uniformly laughed out of the Senate, loudest of all by his Republican colleagues, Richard Burr among them. His inflated resume did not fly and in disgrace Ratcliffe withdrew his nomination, but now he’s back and nothing has changed. Chuck Schumer’s comment summarizes the situation neatly. Replacing one highly partisan operative with another does nothing to keep America safe When Putin is interfering in our elections—we need a nonpartisan leader at the helm of the Intel Community who speaks truth to power Neither Richard Grenell nor Rep Ratcliffe comes even close — Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 28, 2020 But is this the real story? The New York Times points out, Ratcliffe’s nomination might be a smoke screen, so Trump can keep Grenell on board. But just nominating Mr. Ratcliffe creates a benefit for the White House: Once Mr. Trump sends formal nomination papers to the Senate, it will extend the time the current acting director, Mr. Grenell, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s, can remain in the office. And in the minds of some Democrats, that was the president’s goal at a time when he is seeking to impose greater control over the nation’s intelligence agencies after years of tension that started with the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to help Mr. Trump. Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Mr. Grenell can serve in his post only until March 11 unless the president formally nominates someone else for the job. Under that law, Mr. Grenell would be able to stay an additional 210 days once Mr. Ratcliffe is nominated. Should the Senate reject Mr. Ratcliffe, Mr. Grenell’s tenure would be extended again. This is something to take a look at and ponder, definitely. But either way that this goes, if Ratcliffe is rubber stamped by the Senate or if it’s a ploy to keep Grenell on board, the bottom line is that the intelligence community and the rule of law both suffer. With either of these two characters, Grenell or Racliffe in charge, the intelligence community would be in Trump’s pocket and greatly hamstrung from doing it’s normal job. This is especially important as the election approaches and pal Putin gears up his efforts to create chaos. The timing on this is not coincidental.  

A College Senior and Ben Carson Associate Has Been Hired To Assist Trump’s Body...

When you’ve written enough ridiculous headlines that are not in fact satire, but are real, it stops mattering after a while. This is yet another one of those times. The Trump administration has hired a 23-year-old senior at George Washington University to assist former Trump body man John McEntee, who is now the head of the Presidential Personnel Office, which oversees hiring across the government. McEntee is 29 and the two twenty-somethings are going to be in charge of hiring and firing, because the Personnel office is now really the Purge office. Oh, and he worked for Ben Carson. Now I know you feel safe. Politico: James Bacon, 23, is acting as one of the right-hand men to new PPO director John McEntee, according to the officials. Bacon, a senior at George Washington University pursuing a bachelor’s degree, comes from the Department of Transportation, where he briefly worked in the policy shop. Prior to that role, while still taking classes, he worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he was a White House liaison, according to two other officials. At HUD, he distinguished himself as Secretary Ben Carson’s confidential assistant, according to two other administration officials. Bacon will be PPO’s director of operations overseeing paperwork and will assist on vetting. The role was previously filled by Katja Bullock, who is in her late 70s and was a veteran of the office in both Bush administrations, as well as the Reagan administration. […] The PPO office has been the subject of complaints and finger-pointing by some in the administration over its “frat-house” reputation, but serves an important function for vetting and hiring appointees. With McEntee at the helm of the office, however, it’s expected the president will take a more direct role than he has before. “After three years of allowing others to control who would be around him and have power, he’s trying to take back some of the power and have a say in the staffing in the White House and administration,” a person close to the White House said. “A lot of the people in there weren’t actual allies of Trump, and didn’t actually support his agenda but had significant roles in his administration.” I especially like the part about the previous job holder having been a woman in her seventies. But then again, staffing concerns in the Reagan and both Bush eras were concerned with a trifle more than, “On a scale of one to ten, how much do you hate Donald Trump today?” That question, in this era, is the one and only. This may seem comical now, but it’s going to get sick and perverse very quick.  

Trump’s New Top Spy Got $100,000 From Hungarian Government Never Disclosed It

Donald Trump has rewritten the book on national security. If you want to rise high in the ranks, just be an unreported foreign agent or lobbyist, ala Mike Flynn, and you’ll go far. The latest person to fit this particular role model is Richard Grenell, recently chosen by Trump to oversee all 17 intelligence agencies. ProPublica: In 2016, the Magyar Foundation of North America paid Grenell’s consulting firm, Capitol Media Partners, $103,750 for “public relations” services, according to the foundation’s tax filing. The foundation was funded and supervised by Hungary’s government, according to records obtained by the Hungarian nonprofit news organization Atlatszo. The foundation’s director, Jo Anne Barnhart, had been a registered lobbyist for Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Grenell, however, did not register, even though public relations work on behalf of a foreign government falls squarely under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, according to lawyers specializing in the matter. FARA is the same law that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and former deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, were convicted of violating. The work for Hungary is Grenell’s second foreign consulting engagement that was not previously disclosed. On Friday ProPublica reported that Grenell did consulting work on behalf of the Moldovan politician Vladimir Plahotniuc, who the U.S. later said was involved in corruption. Orban and Plahotniuc were both clients of Arthur Finkelstein, who was a Republican political operative for four decades and is credited with having demonized the word “liberal.” “Call your opponent a liberal again and again until voters believe it,” was his strategy. That same strategy may be tried in this year’s election with the word socialist. In any event, a payment of at least $5,000 from Finkelstein’s firm appears on Grenell’s personal financial disclosure form, filed when he became ambassador to Germany. Finkelstein represented former congressman Connie Mack, who was Orban’s lobbyist in Washington, for those of you who like to connect all the dots between the GOP and foreign dictators. Apparently, it’s a connection that Trump can’t live without, because the closer you look into who he nominates and who they in turn do business with secretively, you find dictatorships and unreported financial transactions not too far behind.

Trump Nominates Yet Another Doozy To Federal Reserve

You may recall how in 2019, Donald Trump was oh for two with respect to Federal Reserve nominees. Hermain Cain had a history as a sexual harasser and Stephen Moore had made grossly inappropriate comments about women, such as saying that women shouldn’t make more money than men. Those controversies caused both candidates to withdraw before they had to withstand Senate scrutiny. Now Trump has found a woman, Judy Shelton, presumably to offset the two misogynists, and but for the fact that she’s batshit crazy, that might not have been such a bad idea. CNN: President Donald Trump’s Federal Reserve nominee Judy Shelton said in 2011 that the central bank was “almost a rogue agency” in the US government and had become a “behemoth” that couldn’t be trusted with oversight of the dollar. “Our government is promising so much to so many and at the same time we let the government control the value of our money and all of that would really go against the grain with our Founders — who did not see it as the government’s task to supply everything to everybody,” she said. “They saw the government’s task to be to protect private property and that’s why they wanted limited government because they knew,” she added. “It’s just the nature of having power that causes people in power to abuse the privilege. I think we’re now at a point where we have to ask if we can even trust government to regulate the value of our money.” Distrust of government is core wingnut insanity. The absolute last thing we need is this loony calling shots on the Federal Reserve. She’s advocating a return to the gold standard, while the majority of economists, according to CNN, disagree with that idea, saying that it would be “disastrous for the U.S. economy.” Can we just get done with the Trump Era, already, so we don’t have to continually fight these confirmation of the clueless battles?

Trump’s New Personnel Chief Tells Cabinet Liasons to Purge Never Trumpers

Civil Service jobs are reknowned for offering job security, that’s considered their greatest perk. But throw all of that bathwater out with the baby in the era of Trump. Nobody is secure in a government post these days unless you’re a Trumpkin, it doesn’t matter how competent you are. As a matter of fact, competence itself is looked upon with suspicion, as an indicator of a good mind, and the only mindset wanted in this mis-administration is one that is tuned to worshiping the Orange God. Trump’s former body man is now in charge of the Presidential Personnel Office and he’s about to shake up a lot of careers. Axios: Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios. Behind the scenes: McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government. But McEntee suggested the most dramatic changes may have to wait until after the November election. Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.” McEntee told staff that those identified as anti-Trump will no longer get promotions by shifting them around agencies. That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? If you don’t play ball with Trump, he’ll ruin your career, end of story. There is one story in Washington that needs to end and one only — and that is his.

Jared Kushner Undermines DOJ, Now He’s In Charge Of Pardoning Crooks

Secretary of Everything and all around boy wonder Jared Kushner has embarked on yet another mission for his father-in-law. Now Kushner is in charge of Donald Trump’s new, post-acquittal hobby, flagrant abuse of the pardon power. Who needs the DOJ when you’ve got Jared? If there is one factor which is the hallmark of this mis-administration, it is the desire to do an end run around the professional and empower some know nothing to do a job s/he’s utterly unqualified for, instead. And GOP land approves, apparently. Washington Post: A move by Trump to ramp up the clemency process and seize control from the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney would be welcome by criminal-justice advocates, said Mark Holden, former general counsel of Koch Industries, the private company controlled by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, whose political network worked closely with the White House on legislation to reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders. “I think the shift would be great,” said Holden, who worked with Johnson and the White House to help secure commutations for Munoz, Hall and Negron. “No disrespect intended to the Department of Justice, but having them decide who gets freed after they’re the ones who locked people up with these ridiculous sentences? There seems to be some bias there.” Jared approved of commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, even though both Democrats and Republicans — particularly those in Illinois — denounced the move. But bear in mind, it was Jared’s idea to fire James Comey as well. Jared Kushner is so far the phuque in over his head that he doesn’t know what day it is, but that doesn’t prevent him  from getting on the tube and not only violating the Hatch Act by campaigning for Trump, but peacocking about how Trump has brought “people with fresh perspectives”  to Washington. Fresh, yes. Uninformed, definitely. Stupid? Absolutely. And Jared is the poster child. Several officials familiar with the matter said the White House has been discussing ways to revamp the clemency process for months, amid growing consensus that the role of the Justice Department should be minimized. The White House has been disappointed with the Justice Department’s process, officials said. While the Justice Department has traditionally received clemency petitions, the new process involves direct submission of applicants to the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Kushner, according to people familiar with the matter. And if you’re worried about Trump’s cronies and reality TV-types getting pardons ahead of those more deserving, you are not alone. Justice Department officials in the past have worried about how Trump handled pardons. There was so much concern about subversion of the traditional pardon process under Trump that then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein instructed the department’s pardon attorney that they reported only to him, the attorney general and the president, a person familiar with the matter said. Rosenstein told the pardon attorney that if anyone else from the White House called and asked for a pardon warrant, the pardon attorney must first seek his approval, the person said. The person said Rosenstein was deeply concerned that well-connected friends and benefactors were getting special access. The issue arose in particular when the White House proposed clemency for Oregon ranchers , and Rosenstein insisted officials first hear from prosecutors on the case, the person […]

Blagojevich Declares ‘I’m A Trumpocrat Now’ Sings Trump’s Praises In Draining the Swamp

This is exactly what Donald Trump needs right now, is a former Democrat who has realized the error of his ways and is now ready to embrace the genius of Trump’s leadership and go forth and preach it from the mount. That is what pardoned felon Rod Blagojevich did in his press conference Wednesday as he signed autographs and declared “I’m a Trumpocrat. I don’t know if they’ll let me vote, but if I can vote, I’ll vote for Trump.” “President Trump is not a typical politician. He’s tough, he’s outspoken, he gets things done. He’s a problem solver in a business where too many politicians don’t want to solve problems. All they want to do is play politics. and get nothing done for the people.” “I’m a Trumpcrat, that’s right. If I have the ability to vote, I’m going to vote for him…our president is tough and outspoken and he has the courage to challenge the old way. He’s the one that’s actually fighting to bring real change, that’s why he gets so much pushback. But not withstanding being tough, he’s also a man with a kind heart.” Then he went on to talk about Donald Trump, righter of wrongs, pardoner of the innocent, the persecuted and prosecuted. Listening is believing. And bear in mind, that while this tribute was going on, Trump was tweeting this: Rod Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat. He served 8 years in prison, with many remaining. He paid a big price. Another Comey and gang deal! Thank you to @LisaMarieBoothe who really “gets” what’s going on! @FoxNews — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020 Yesterday Trump said that Blago’s sentence was “unfair and too long.” Today he’s saying that he’s innocent altogether. Conspiracy theory, much? Now what is absolutely fascinating about this tweet, is that Blago was convicted in 2011 and James Comey didn’t begin serving as Director of the FBI until September, 2013. So Comey must have zapped him from the private sector. No, if Trump wants to get this particular conspiracy theory going right, he’s going to have to lay it at Robert Mueller’s feet, because he was head of the FBI during the time frame in question. Not that it matters.The idea is to generate a talking point, and the two bad guys are Mueller and Comey, so either one will do just fine. If you need to induce vomiting for any reason, keep this clip of Blago handy. Or, just kick back and have a good laugh. Blago should volunteer to teach Post Pardon Propaganda 101, because the class is filling up fast and new acolytes to the Cult of Trump need guidance.  

Barr Is Said To Be ‘Considering Quitting’ Over Trump’s Tweets

Two schools of thought on Tuesday night’s banner headline about Bill Barr being so disgruntled with Donald Trump’s ongoing tweets about the Justice Department that he’s considering resigning: He’s setting himself up to have an out, if the pressure from people who are demanding his resignation gets too intense. This way he can make it seem like his idea; He’s just doubling down on his initial P.R. ploy a few days ago, to see if it will fly this time. Or maybe a third option, which is both. Washington Post: Attorney General William P. Barr has told people close to President Trump — both inside and outside the White House — that he is considering quitting over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, three administration officials said, foreshadowing a possible confrontation between the president and his attorney general over the independence of the Justice Department. […] The standoff between Trump and Barr intensified Tuesday, when Trump declared in a string of early morning tweets that he might sue those involved in the special counsel’s investigation into his 2016 campaign and suggested that Roger Stone, his friend convicted of lying to Congress in that probe, deserved a new trial. Just hours later, a Justice Department official revealed that prosecutors had filed a sealed motion in court arguing the opposite, and they had Barr’s personal approval to do so. Barr had a previously scheduled lunch with the White House counsel Tuesday and was still the attorney general by day’s end — indicating the president’s moves that day were not enough to push him to resign. But he and his Justice Department seemed to remain mired in a political crisis, with an uncertain future. Everything I have seen and read about Bill Barr tells me that he is the gaslighter’s gaslighter. I don’t doubt for a moment that he’s talking this talk, and letting these thoughts leak out to the press, for some tactical purpose. But as to him walking the walk and moving on from Trump because he’s had a come to Jesus moment and he realizes the error of his ways? Puh-leeeze. I’ll believe that when the pigs start appearing on the upstairs window sill and asking me if I want to jump on and take a ride to Oz and play with the monkeys.

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