Do Any of You Know What the Word ‘Prudent’ Means? (The Trump/Nixon Tapes, Part three)

uss-carl-vinson-cvn-70-2[What follows is a transcript of President Donald Trump speaking into the Oval Office recording device originally used by President Richard Nixon. This series of recordings encompasses the president’s communication to his inner circle.]

To: The Trump Circle of Trust (TCT)

cc: National Security Advisor H. R. McMasters,
Secretary of Defense Mad Dog Mattis

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

[Sound of fingers drumming on the desk]

[Sound of heavy sighing]

You know, people, I don’t ask for much out of you. Just some loyalty. That’s all. You don’t have to be qualified for the job you’re in. You don’t have to follow the rules and traditions set down by previous administrations. You don’t even have to like the department you’re in charge of running.

You just have to have my back. And right now, my back is so full of knife wounds, that I’m going to have to get on the phone to Mexico to have another set of Trump suits flown first class to Mar-a-Lago. Do you know how much that’s going to cost the American taxpayer? I don’t.

I mean how the hell do we lose an entire armada? I’ve been on one of those aircraft carriers during the campaign. It was huge! So many people loved it when I stood on the deck of that big boat and talked about how the military was a disaster.

When the president speaks. It has to be the truth, even when it isn’t. Understand? My credibility and the credibility of the country depends on you people getting that through your thick skulls. Nunes gets it.

So what happened? I asked Sheila in the Steno pool to look it up for me.

She says just over a week ago, someone at Defense talked to the Clinton News Network saying we were sending one of those big beautiful boats to North Korea because what’shisname was getting too big for his britches.  Sounds good to me. I don’t remember making that decision, but like I told the press after we dropped that huge bomb on . . . uh . . was it Pakistan? No, that doesn’t sound right. Afghanistan! Jeeze, I need flash cards or something.

Anyway, like I told the press, my military is fully authorized. I’ve given them total authorization. So if someone decided to take one of those big beautiful boats to Korea, then I say pick me up some barbecue on the way back after you’ve shown that inscrutable little bastard what American might is all about.

They loved it in South Korea! You should have seen that guy on CNN talking about how grave the situation was and how this armada was going to show what’shishead that he needs to sit down because he’s not messing with some squishy Democrats anymore.

South Korea was excited. North Korea was furious. The media was sporting big war boners, talking about how my decision to divert that boat to Korea signaled a new strategy in dealing with that guy. Everything was coming up Trump! And I don’t even remember making that decision! That’s just how great I am at this job.

Mad Dog! You went on TV and said the order to send the . . . damn it what’s the name of that boat? [sound of papers shuffling] It’s a guy’s name, something like Vinnie? The USS Vinnie Barbarino? [more papers shuffling] Here it is. The USS Carl Vinson (See? I knew it was Vinnie something). You said it was “on her way up there because that’s where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time.” Do you remember me giving the order?

McMaster! You went on Fox a week ago and they asked about why I gave the order. You said, “Well, it’s prudent to do isn’t it?”

Sean! When the dishonest reporters asked you about it, you said “The forward deployment is deterrence, presence. It’s prudent.” Where did you guys get that word? Did I use it when I gave the order to send the Barbarino to Korea? It doesn’t sound like me. But it sure sounds like you guys got together and got your stories straight, which makes for a nice change of pace around here, believe me.

After all that, I felt pretty confident going on Fox Business News and telling them, “We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.” See? Commander-in-Chief! Large and in charge! Flexing some military muscles. It was beautiful.

But now I hear that the damn boat wasn’t even going to Korea at all? The commander of the Barbarino was tweeting selfies in Singapore?

Did I give the order or didn’t I?

Well, I’m giving it now. I want the USS Vinnie Barbarino headed to North Korea now! Sean, you go back out there and tell them that was the plan all along. Blame it on a miscommunication or something. But emphasize that I definitely didn’t lose a damn aircraft carrier.

[heavy sigh]

Moving on.

Will someone please make me some flash cards so I can remember the name of the leader of North Korea? Would that be “prudent?” The press is getting wise to my trick of just calling him “this gentleman.” It turns out, there’s been three of them? Really? And no one thought to mention it?

You’re just making your own jobs harder. I mean how are you ever going to be able to convince everyone that Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un are the same person? I suppose you can play up the craftiness angle. Or maybe you could mention how they all look alike? Whatever you do, make it quick. Chop chop!

Look, I’ve been rough on you guys. But that’s me. I’m a rough guy. Tough as they come — a steely-eyed, hard-nosed, take-no-crap negotiator. But let’s end on a positive note. The Easter Egg Roll was a huge success. I want to thank everyone for hurrying back to Washington last Monday and finding all the eggs I hid when I thought it was supposed to be an Easter egg hunt. Also, I appreciate Steve Bannon dressing up as the Easter Bunny this year.

I don’t know who leaked that it was him, but I’m looking at you, Kelly Ann.

Sure, there were some hiccups, I threw a kid’s autographed Trump hat into the crowd instead of giving it back to him and had to be reminded by an immigrant to put my hand over my heart during the National Anthem. But at least the kids got to meet Jeff Sessions, am I right?

Oh, Jerrod? Send Bill O’Reilly a falafel basket and ask him if he wants Sean Spicer’s job. And send Alex Jones a chili basket and ask him to forget my number. I can’t take any more late night calls blubbering about his kids being turned gay by juice boxes.

Trump out!

[Sound of microphone dropping]

Changing the World [The Trump/Nixon Tapes, part 2]

trump-oval-office

[What follows is a transcript of President Donald Trump speaking into the Oval Office recording device originally used by President Richard Nixon. This series of recordings encompasses the president’s communication to his inner circle.]

To: The Trump Circle of Trust (TCT)

cc: Steven Bannon

bcc: Aaron Fuller, director of food and beverages, Mar-a-Lago.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay, I think we’re rolling. I’m starting. Here we go. It is, uh, April 13, 2017. We’re 10 or 13 weeks into my administration and I wanted to talk to everyone about what a tremendous job I’m doing.

First off, I want to welcome Sean back into the TCT on a provisional basis. That press briefing where you explained my changing positions by claiming that I hadn’t changed, the rest of the world changed was inspired. Good job. That certainly makes up for all that Hitler talk from earlier in the week. I heard Steve Bannon didn’t care for your description of Hitler as “despicable” but Steve has one foot out the door anyway. Right, Steve?

As many of you know, my father taught me that men don’t change their minds, they change the world. And I believe that. I really do. I mean what other explanation could there be? The things I said on the campaign trail at the rallies weren’t wrong. Everyone saw the huge crowds I got. Nobody got crowds like Trump. And they all agreed with me. My positions were very popular. That’s why I won the election. They all said Trump had no path to victory. But they were wrong. The world changed.

I mean look at NATO. It was obsolete. Who even ever heard of NATO before I told everyone how obsolete it was? It was no League of Nations, that I can tell you. But now that I’m president, they’re no longer obsolete. Did they do something different? They must have. Otherwise, they’d still be obsolete. Maybe Angela Merkel paid that invoice I gave her when she tried to shake my hand. That figures. Men don’t pay invoices. My father taught me that, too. The world keeps changing, but Trump stays the same.

Then there’s the Export-Import Bank. Like I said on the campaign trail at the rallies where we got such huge crowds that all agreed with me, I don’t see a reason for it. It isn’t necessary. It’s got a lot of baggage. They must have heard me and seen those beautiful crowds because they suddenly started making money. Plus, all those executives from all those huge companies all told me that it was a good thing, so the world changed again. Amazing. Just, really incredible, that the whole world changes when Trump speaks. That’s just beautiful, let me tell you.

And what about China? They were world champion currency manipulators. You all heard me say it. Thousands of people, maybe even millions, heard me say it. I promised that my Treasury Secretary would label them a currency manipulator. I figured a Goldman Sachs guy would understand, right? I mean if anyone understands currency manipulation it’s a Goldman Sachs guy, right? Then I won the election in a historical landslide and China stopped manipulating its currency. The world changed.

Speaking of China, how great was that missile attack in Iraq? Or Syria? Or whichever place we dropped all those Tomahawks? There I was at Mar-a-Lago with President Jinping, or is it President Xi? Are the Chinese the ones that use the last name first? I can’t keep that straight and frankly, I find it ridiculous. Anyway, we both decided to screw our diets and split a piece of the Most Beautiful Chocolate Cake. (Note to Aaron: naming that dessert the Most Beautiful Chocolate Cake was a stroke of genius. I guarantee you the members are going to eat dozens if not millions of those cakes, let’s up the price to $40 a slice).

While I’m thinking about dessert, Jared, be sure and send Janet Yellen over at the Federal Reserve a muffin basket. Write on the card something like “I hope your interest in lemon poppyseed is higher than your federal reserve policies.” She’ll get what I mean.

I understand from Junior that my Raytheon stock is doing really well after we shot $100 million worth of inventory at . . . uh . . . I want to say Syria? Is that the one? Yeah, that’s the one. Maybe we should bomb Iraq too so I don’t make that mistake again.  Not that I made a mistake. But bombing Iraq would make what I said true retroactively. We need to make the changes we want to see in the world.

Hey, remember how everyone went crazy because I ordered my steak well done? I told everybody you need to really cook the hell out of your steaks because the kitchen at Mar-a-Lago’s a disaster. Seriously, Aaron, you’d think after doubling the membership fees to $200,000, you’d have enough in the budget to get the coolers fixed. Maybe we should charge $50 a slice for that cake.

Hey, Mad Dog, you weren’t kidding about that bomb we dropped on . . . uh . . . damn it I know this . . . Israel? No. Afghanistan.

Wow. That was a big mother. I’m told it was the biggest non-nuclear bomb ever to be dropped. A record! Congratulations, seriously. I bet it was also pretty expensive too. I think Hannity or somebody said it was $16 million. For a single bomb? It must have been covered in gold filigree. Did someone put my name on it? I bet that would have increased the value tremendously. I bet it looked beautiful as it fell, too, all covered in gold and glinting in the sun — a giant TRUMP painted on the side. I had Sheila in the Steno pool read me the casualty report. It says we got 36 ISIS fighters. So that means each of them was worth . . .

[tapping sound as Trump works an adding machine]

$444,444 — that’s got to be a record too, right? I mean those guys wouldn’t see that kind of money in 20 lifetimes, that I can tell you. Their world changed pretty damn quick, didn’t it?

Okay, so big Easter weekend coming up. Melania has agreed to go with me down to Mar-a-Lago if I promise she won’t get the runs again. Aaron, that’s on you. Man, do I need this vacation. All this world-changing would wear down a normal man. Fortunately, I thrive on it. But you know, there’s something niggling me in the back of my head. I had a scalp adjustment last week, so it probably isn’t that. No. Seems like there is something I’m supposed to do this weekend. Some big event? I read something about it. Something, something, highest-profile event at the White House all year?

Meh, It will come to me. Have a good long weekend everybody and let’s come back to the White House next week ready to change the world some more.

Trump out!

Muffin Basket Diplomacy [The Trump/Nixon Tapes, Part One]

giphyApril 5, 2017

To: the Trump Circle of Trust (TCT)

cc: Sean Spicer

[BEGIN TRANSCRIPT]

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are you on? Are we rolling? Really? Beautiful. Okay everybody clear out. Leave me alone with my thoughts.

[Mumurs of “Thank you, Mr. President” and inaudible dialogue]

Okay. So I had some of the tech guys in the secret basement hook up Dick Nixon’s old Oval Office recording device. They tell me one of the young women in the Steno pool will type it up and shoot everybody a memo.

Now. Why am I seeing these fake news stories about me “forgetting” to sign the Executive Order? I may not know what all them do, but I sign every one of them. I didn’t forget. I don’t forget things. I am not one who forgets.

I’m not signing these things in front of the cameras anymore. The dishonesty is just too much to take. It’s disrespectful, frankly. The things that some people did with the computers. I don’t know how they do it. But it’s all fake, right? It’s fake news, but they’re everywhere. No. I’m done with that. Ugh.

trump-draws

So many penises. Are we sure everyone knows I’m the president? Should we have some of those big money guys who want favors do an ad?

Of course, it could be worse. Did you see what they’re doing to Putin? He’s going to haaaate that. It’s disgusting. Make sure we send him a muffin basket or something.

Why am I still reading about this Cohen-Whatsit kid? Steve? Jared? He’s yours. You stood up for him when McMaster wanted him gone. That’s right. He’s the one that McMaster wanted to get rid of and you guys said I should tell him to “pound sand?” Is that something soldiers tell each other to do? Pound sand?

I don’t know. McMaster didn’t want him and you guys said we had to keep him. What does that kid do over there that’s so important anyway?

Wait, Jared isn’t here. Where is Jared? He seems to be gone a lot.  Was his Illuminati induction this weekend? I was going to put him in charge of something else just to watch him make that face again. Jared? I’m putting you in charge of muffin baskets. Send yourself one.

Steve? You’re out at the National Security Council. A) You wanted it too much and I don’t do “needy” and 2) I only put you on the Security Council to keep an eye on Flynn. Jared can handle it without you. I mean what are you going to do, quit?

Speaking of Flynn, Why didn’t somebody tell me that Flynn was the Russian mole? Why do I have to read about it in the paper?

1490367284_127_national-enquirer-brands-flynn-a-e2809crussian-spye2809d-e28094-trump-just-threw-flynn-under-the-bus-why

Since you’re not so busy Steve, you hit this Susan Rice thing your boy found for me. This is a big story. They said “unprecedented” on “Fox and Friends.” I at-ted the FBI on the tweet so they’re in the loop on this. The Times is going to ask about this. I’m going to go with “big story that the fake news won’t cover” and when they ask for more information, I’ll just tell them I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve got a good feeling about this one, everybody. Republicans haaaate her. Anyone who figures a way to hook Loretta Lynch into this gets a case of Trump steaks and five items from my drawer full of tiny soaps, shampoos, lotions, and conditioners.

Okay, moving on. Katie Walsh. I’m not sure who you are, but Steve says you’re the leaker. Not cool! No, I’m kidding. I’m sure you’re a nice person. But you’ve got to go so we can get the Trump Train back on track perception wise. You understand. I put Jared in charge of getting you some lovely parting gifts.

She was Rience’s girl, right? Rience? Firstly, I’ve left instructions with the Steno pool to never spell your name correctly in these transcripts. Never going to happen. Get a name people can pronounce and we’ll talk. Personally, I think you look a like a “Joey.”

Secondly, I want to know who leaked that I am considering resigning. Thirdly, I’ve got no problem waterboarding you or any of the staff to find how who is actually leaking.

Let’s see. I gave the Freedom Caucus the ole Twitter gut check. Beautiful, right?

Somebody send Paul a muffin basket with a card that says: Thanks for the assist. Using the Democrats to threaten the Freedom Caucus was surprisingly . . . uh . . . on the team? I don’t know. It’s so hard to care where Paul’s concerned.

Someone want to explain the timing here? Niki over at the UN tells everybody that we’re not going to oust Assad and then suddenly he’s got chemical weapons and using them on civilians? How am I supposed to feel about this? I mean the pictures are horrible. The whole thing is a disaster. He crossed just so many lines. But Assad is a tough leader. Putin won’t shut up about the guy. I told the people at the rallies where we had such huge crowds. I mean nobody gets crowds like we do. But I told them you have to be tough with these guys. You’ve got to take out their families, right? I took a lot of heat for that. They said I was advocating a war crime. I didn’t think so. Now Little Marco is bebopping and scatting all over me. I thought you guys said this was Obama’s fault? I know Spicy said it.

Somebody might have told me I signed a bill that the whole country hates. What was that about? Who knew people liked to keep their internet privacy private? I don’t use computers. I use Twitter and I’m giving that away for free. I swear to you that if I have to start reading every damn thing I sign, I’m cracking skulls.

Don junior? I need to withdraw a few thousand from the Trump Organization profits to pay for some muffin baskets. Jared, use my guy over at my hotel. Tell him it’s for me and he’ll jack up the invoice.

Well that’s it, everyone, I guess. How do you turn this damn thing off?

[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

 

Close Only Counts in Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Running a Country

grasping-at-strawsThere is an interview with President Donald Trump in TIME this week. It was ostensibly to be a Q&A about whether certain statements he has made recently are false. I’ve read through it a few times now and have come away amazed at how he spins his own lies into . . . well . . . something, but certainly not the truth.

It started with Trump giving a list of his “predictions” that he felt he got right.

Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing. NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before. 

There’s a lot to unpack there. Let’s take them one at a time.

“Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems.”

On February 19, Trump held a campaign rally in Florida. He said, “You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden — who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening Brussels, you look at what’s happening all over the world.”

The Swedish government (and news agencies around the world) were confused by this statement because nothing happened in Sweden on Feb. 18. The president may have been confused by a segment on Fox News where Tucker Carlson interviewed a filmmaker pushing highly criticized documentary about issues Sweden is having with immigrants and refugees. Two days later, on Feb 21, police clashed with rioters in a majority immigrant neighborhood in Stockholm. Some rioter threw rocks and one officer was struck in the arm. Police fired warning shots to dispurse the crowd, but no one died and the police said the riot may have been the result of increased police pressure in the neighborhood.

The fact that a riot happened two days after the president made a reference to a terrorist incident that didn’t happen three days earlier doesn’t really mitigate his statement, does it? But Trump believes he got close enough. He wants partial credit.

Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing.

In October, a little more than a week before the election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz at the House Oversight Committee to say that, while investigating Anthony Weiner for an unrelated matter, they discovered some emails to Clinton from Weiner’s wife and Clinton aide Huma Abedine on Wiener’s laptop. Comey has been roundly criticized for rushing to send the letter before anyone (including himself) knew if anything on the laptop was new or relevant to the Clinton email investigation. Contrary to the president’s statement, the laptop didn’t contain “all of Hillary’s email on the thing.” In fact, the wasn’t anything new or undisclosed on the laptop, leading many to speculate that Comey was attempting to put his thumb on the scale to help Trump in the week leading up to the vote. Trump wasn’t even close on that one, but he still wants credit.

NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it.

Here the president doesn’t even try to make sense. NATO isn’t obsolete. In fact, it is essential for the defense of Europe and the encroaching threat of Putin’s Russia. They have been working on counterterrorism since 1980 and stepped up those efforts in 2011 after the attack on the World Trade Center. Countries don’t pay into NATO for defense. NATO allies agree to spend two percent of their GDP on defense (this is a goal to be reached by 2026, as of now only four countries are there). None of that money is paid to the United States and our contribution to NATO isn’t a favor to Europe, but an essential part of our own national defense. A free democratic Europe is essential to the security of the western world. He wants credit for being right about something he doesn’t understand.

Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before.

The record of Trump’s predictions on Brexit will show that he wasn’t confident. In fact, when asked about his position on Brexit back in June, Trump wasn’t sure what it was. The day before the vote, he was hedging: “I don’t think anybody should listen to me because I haven’t really focused on it very much. … My inclination would be to get out, because you know, just go it alone. … I also tell people: ‘Don’t go with the recommendation, because it’s a recommendation that I would make, but that’s where I stand.’” He got the answer right, but I doubt he could show his work. Technically, he didn’t predict how the vote would go, only how he would have voted.

Then the reporter asked about the president’s various statements that have only a passing aquaintence with the truth.

Wiretapping:

Now remember this. When I said wiretapping, it was in quotes. Because a wiretapping is, you know today it is different than wire tapping. It is just a good description. But wiretapping was in quotes. What I’m talking about is surveillance.

Trump sent out four tweets during that fateful Saturday morning at Mar-a-Lago. In two of them he used quotes around “wiretapping” and in two he didn’t. But in all of them, he accused President Obama of illegally ordering it. In fact, he called the president “bad” and “sick.” None of that is mitigated by trying to walk it back with fake excuses about quote marks. He said it was “Nixon/Watergate” stuff. Trump brought up House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes holding an unusual press conference inwhich he said some of Trump’s campaign team turned up in surveliance files where the targets of surveillance were Russians. That doesn’t mitigate Trumps accusations or provide any sort of vindication for his ill-advised twitter storm. But Trump wants credit for it.

When the reporter brought up that Comey testified that there was no surveillance of the Trump campaign or transition team, he responded, “I have articles saying it happened.” Wow. So the FBI, the NSA, the DoJ, and the Brits all say there was no surveillance. But Trump will ignore them in favor of “articles” in the newspaper? I find it particularly gaulling that he’s referring to the New York Times here because as everyone should know, Trump has no respect for that paper, describing it alternately as “failing” and “fake news.” But if you look at the article to which Trump is probably referring, it doesn’t say anything about Obama ordering surveillance. The president is just way off here and grasping at anything to keep from having to admit he was in error. He’s wrong, but he wants the NYT to be the one to take the hit.

Three million undocumented people voted:

There is zero evidence to support that claim or any of the associated claims such as people being bussed across state lines to vote in two different states. It didn’t happen. But Trump says, “Well I think I will be proved right about that too.” He’s going to form a committee to study it. 

Wait, more than that? Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub disputes that claim and has demanded the president either present his evidence or stop making it. No one else in government seems to believe that this is possible. But Trump wants to form a committee and have it spend tax dollars chasing its tail so he won’t have to admit he got it wrong. Again. He wants credit for believing he’s right. 

Before the election when Trump made wild accusations and “predictions” that turned out to be false, it was just another celebrity blowhard beaking off. But now that he’s the president, it’s not a good look. The reporter asked him if there was a difference between citizen Trump and President Trump making these “kinds of predictions without having the factual evidence.” 

“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right.”

No, Mr. President. You’re not. It just goes on an on from there. His contention that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father Raphael had something to do with the murder of President John F. Kennedy? “Well, that was in a newspaper.” It was in the National Enquirer and it was debunked days before Trump made the statement.

“I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano, I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier, I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap.”

Napolitano got his information from Russia Today, Putin’s state-sponsored propaganda media channel and he’s been suspended from Fox News over it. Baier was interviewing Speaker Paul Ryan about unconfirmed reports of wiretapping and Ryan denied seeing any evidence of it. Fox News has said they have no evidence of any wiretapping. 

Rather than take responsibility for his own credulousness, he passes the buck. Oh, I was just quoting what I saw on TV. How can you hold me responsible for the lies of the dishonest media?  The reporter pointed out that traditionally presidents don’t make wild statements without having the facts at hand. 

“Well, I’m not, well, I think, I’m not saying, I’m quoting, Michael, I’m quoting highly respected people and sources from major television networks.”

So, the lying, dishonest, fake media suddenly becomes “highly respected” when he can use them to avoid taking responsibility for his outlandish statements. He lies. He lies repeatedly and with gusto over little, inconsequential matters. 

“Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena.” The Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville holds 18,000 people. That’s a respectable number. No one is going to think less of him because he filled an 18,000-seat arena instead of a 25,000-seat one. Why lie about something that doesn’t mean anything and can be so easily checked? 

President Trump doesn’t have the temperament for this job. He doesn’t do well when confronted with facts that oppose his own ideas. He denies his own words when confronted with the truth. I encourage everyone to read this interview and try to make sense of what he’s trying to say. He cannot admit fault. He cannot acknowledge that he got something wrong. He wants credit for getting close.

There are no participation trophies for world leaders. There are only consequences. Bald-faced lies coupled with a complete denial of the truth is the stock and trade of a toddler, not a president. It’s how a con man skates by in the world. It isn’t how an adult does his or her job. 

None Dare Call It TrumpCare?

In all fairness, President Donald Trump had very little to do with the ACA replacement bill making it’s way speedily through the House of Representatives right now. No one wants to put their names on it, (including Trump) so the Republicans call it the American Health Care Act. I’m hard pressed to think of a way you could have written a worse bill to replace Obamacare (We’re keeping all the fees and penalties, cutting your subsidies and coverage, defunding Planned Parenthood, and gutting Medicare). But let’s take a look at what we’re being fed.

First of all, though this claims to be a healthcare bill, it’s a budget bill. The House presented it as a budget bill so they could get it through the Senate with a simple majority. This also means you can’t have any real non-budget-related policy changes in the bill. That’s why we’re not seeing anything in that doesn’t have to do with how the government spends money.

There’s nothing about such Trump promises as selling insurance across state lines, transparency in pricing, or repealing the McCarren Ferguson Act. That would make the bill subject to the filibuster.

Obamacare took a year to pass — there were public hearings, debates, speeches, countless hours of TV coverage, a special election in Massachusetts when Sen. Ted Kennedy died, and an entire summer of Tea Party Town Hall meetings. The president moved off his positions to help bridge the gap with Republicans who had plenty of demands, but no interest in voting for it even when those demands were met. The result was an imperfect legislation-by-committee that nonetheless provided insurance coverage for millions of Americans who could not get it before.

It passed seven years ago. Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace it all this time including voting to repeal it more than 60 times. So it is unconscionable that they didn’t have a replacement ready to go on day one. But now that they have a replacement, they don’t want to debate it. It passed through the first committee at 4:30 a.m. without any markups. That’s unheard of — unless you’re trying to ram it through. Speaker Ryan wants to pass the bill next week and Sen. McConnell promised to have a vote in the Senate by April.

Neither of them can tell you how much the bill will cost or how many people will lose insurance because the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t scored the bill yet. And while Ryan argued that it was a sham to vote on Obamacare without a CBO score, now Republicans are attacking the CBO (which is an office filled with non-partisan number wonks).

Personal Mandate

Healthy people pay for insurance they don’t use to offset the costs of sick people. That’s how insurance works. That’s how it’s always worked. So Speaker Ryan’s contention only makes sense if your goal isn’t to provide health care. The goal is a tax cut for the rich.

Why do we have a personal mandate anyway? If you make a law that says insurance companies can’t turn away sick people, then you have to also make it a law that everyone has to have insurance. Otherwise, no one buys insurance until they get sick.

Under Obamacare, If you don’t have health insurance, you pay a fine. This drives healthy people into the marketplace:

“I have to buy insurance or I have to pay the IRS a penalty. I’m going to buy health insurance.”

Trumpcare flips this on its side. There is no penalty for not buying health insurance. But if you have a gap in coverage, you have to pay a 30 percent surcharge on your premiums for a year:

“I didn’t buy health insurance while I was looking for a job out of school, now I don’t want to buy it because I have to pay a 30 percent penalty. I’ll put that off until I get sick and have no choice.”

This alone makes this bill worthy of the name “Trumpcare” because it solves a problem that nobody thought was a problem. Seriously, during the entire year of debate over Obamacare, did anyone ever suggest that the issue with the penalties for not having coverage was who got to keep the money? The entire SCOTUS case over Obamacare was about whether the penalty was a fee or a tax. This bill doesn’t eliminate the penalty. It just changes who gets paid. How is that an improvement for anyone except insurance companies?

Premium Subsidies

If you have a personal mandate, you have to subsidize those who can’t afford it. Obamacare based subsidies on income as well as other factors. If you couldn’t afford your coverage you could receive subsidies to help pay for your health insurance. That’s the way it was supposed to work, anyway. But there was a donut hole in the law that left some people in a bind if they made too much money for a subsidy but still couldn’t afford coverage.

The expansion of Medicaid was designed to cover those people. Originally, the Medicaid expansion was mandated for every state. But several states sued and the courts said the fed couldn’t require states to expand Medicaid or build state insurance exchanges. The result was that states that expanded Medicaid saw a dramatic drop in uninsured. Those that refused, saw a lot of angry poor people.

The bill bases these subsidies on age. The older you are, the more money you get. This makes no sense because poverty affects young and old alike. And instead of increasing the subsidy with need, you get a flat rate.

Trumpcare doesn’t make sense as a health care bill. It doesn’t make sense as a budget bill. It only makes sense as a tax cut for the wealthy.

Goodbye, Medicaid

Medicaid under Obamacare was expanded. Medicaid under Trumpcare gets gutted. Speaker Ryan bragged that the bill does something that’s never been done before — it defederalizes an entitlement program, capping both spending and rate of growth. What he means by that is that rather than administering Medicaid. The fed will give block grants to states to run their own version of Medicaid. Capping spending and rate of growth is Ryanspeak for cutting funding and letting that states make up the difference in costs. I don’t know about your state, but Tennessee can’t afford it.

The bill calls for the savings from these Medicaid cuts go toward tax cuts for upper brackets. What this does is shift the money designated for poor people to rich people. In fact, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, this bill will transfer $370 billion from the poor to the top one percent of earners over ten years.

By the way, healthcare for the poor (according to Speaker Ryan) is an entitlement. But the tax breaks for the rich aren’t. Sounds like “Trumpcare” to me.

Compare and Contrast

Republicans want to compare the two plans using odd benchmarks like how many pages it took to print the bills.

Image: US-POLITICS-SPICER-BRIEFING

Incidentally, despite being so many fewer pages than the ACA, the Trumpcare bill has six pages dedicated to how to deal with a poor person who wins the lottery. It devotes a not-insignificant amount of space to allowing insurance companies to write off huge salaries for CEOs. I don’t recall that being part of the Tea Party chants. I don’t remember Trump campaigning on giving insurance companies a big tax cut. This only makes sense if the bill is a tax cut for the rich and not a healthcare bill.

When it comes to more important and relevant benchmarks, the Republicans don’t want to hear it. Literally. How much will Trumpcare cost? We don’t know. The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t scored it yet and the GOP doesn’t want to wait on them. How many people will be left uninsured? Speaker Ryan can’t say.

The House is trying to rush through a vote and the Senate has already indicated that they’ll vote on it by April. That’s crazy. The only reason to do that is to hide the cost. They don’t want to know. Trumpcare.

They don’t care because the purpose of the bill is not to ensure healthcare for all Americans but to ensure profits for all insurance companies. If this bill makes it to Trump’s desk and he signs it, it won’t be while surrounded by old people, children, or the sick. He will be flanked by insurance executives in suits all tenting their fingers and licking their chops.

The ironic thing to me is that the people who will be hurt worst by this bill (those who stand to lose at least $5,000 in subsidies) voted for Trump by 59 percent. Is there a better name than “Trumpcare?”

Coverage

Let’s get something out of the way about insurance coverage. Republicans in the House don’t understand how it works. Later in the exchange in the video above, a House Republican yells that what he wants is for people to buy their insurance ala carte — picking the coverage they want to pay for. But insurance isn’t sold that way. It’s never been sold that way and Republicans don’t have the power to change the way an industry does business (not with a “budget” bill).

Think of it like your cable bill. You want HBO, but you don’t want CSPAN. You watch “Game of Thrones” but have no interest in watching our government’s dysfunction first hand.

You buy a package. The package includes CSPAN and HBO. You don’t get a break on your bill for not watching CSPAN. You don’t get to pick and choose which channels are part of the package. CSPAN isn’t for everyone, but it is important and so everyone gets access.

The same goes for things like prenatal coverage. I know a couple who owns a successful business, have no children, and no plans to adopt. Their health insurance covers prenatal care. This couple won’t use it. But their package will help subsidize the Duggers’ 21st kid instead. We can’t mandate the number of children people can have. So we spread the cost around. That’s how it works.

Republicans like to frame this debate as about access to healthcare, rather than affordability of healthcare. They seem to believe the problem is not enough patient choice, rather than not enough patient money. Along those lines, Trump and his surrogates have made some crazy promises about coverage that this bill cannot keep.

We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us. You can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much-simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.” — President-elect Trump, January 15, 2017.

“I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through. They’ll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy.” — HHS Secretary Tom Price, March 12, 2017.

S&P Global says between 6-10 million will lose coverage. Brookings says at least 15 million will lose coverage. The Congressional Budget Office (which released a report while I was writing this) estimates 24 million will lose coverage.

So How’s It Going?

The AARP is out.

The Heritage Foundation is out.

The House Freedom Caucus is out.

Breitbart is out.

Sen. “Tehran Tom” Cotton is out.

Sen. Rand Paul is out.

The American Medical Association is out.

The American Nurses Association is out.

The American Hospital Association is out.

Freedomworks is out.

Americans for Prosperity is out.

That’s some heavy hitters from the industry and from conservative politics. Well, if liberals don’t like it and conservatives don’t like it, who does support it?

Trump, Ryan, and The US Chamber of Commerce.

There is every indication that this bill won’t pass in its current form. Speaker Ryan said not passing it could stall the Republican’s agenda. Trump said if the bill fails, his plan B is to let Obamacare fail (because, you know, “death spiral”) and blame the Democrats.

The bottom line is that this bill is a travesty that fixes none of the problems Obamacare has and creates a whole new set of issues. To fix the problems with Obamacare, you’ll have to spend more money. Republicans are not interested in spending money to fix it. They’re not interested in providing healthcare to poor people. They just want to transfer more wealth to the upper earners.

I can’t think of a better name for that than “Trumpcare.”

 

EDIT: Here’s the CBO report.

 

Can You Get A Retroactive Waiver For Your Ethics?

source

Appointees to the Trump administration pledge an oath to a set of ethics laid out in an executive order titled “Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Employees.” There are nine rules. This is No. 6:

6.  I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.

I looked it up because of reporting from Business Insider saying White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon contacted Breitbart Washington Editor Mathew Boyle and “instructed” him to write no more stories critical of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Evidently, the last one was a doozy.

According to the two sources, Bannon was so furious that he phoned Boyle after the story was published and unloaded on him. Boyle hadn’t sought to notify Bannon he was publishing the story in advance, the sources said.

Bannon further aggravated Boyle that week when he instructed him not to publish additional articles critical of Priebus, prompting the Washington editor to tell others that Bannon had betrayed Breitbart and was guilty of “treason,” according to a source.

If Bannon picked up that phone and called Doyle to instruct him to lay off Priebus, he violated his ethical pledge. If this pledge is indeed a condition of employment, then Bannon should be fired. If he’ll fudge on his ethics, what won’t he fudge on?

Now Trump could issue him an ethics waiver. That’s covered in the ethics oath — a waiver. For your ethics. All it requires is for Trump to sign it, keep a copy, and give one to Bannon. Did that happen already? Can you get a retroactive waiver — for your ethics?

To placate Doyle, the White House arranged interviews with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, and even a one-on-one with Trump. Trading access for favorable coverage is a standard operating procedure. It has been for years. It’s the only reason Sean Hannity has a job.

Then came the American Health Care Act, which is supposed to both repeal and replace Obamacare. To use the president’s terms, the rollout has been a disaster. Officially, the White House was holding it at arm’s length, Kelly Ann Conway asked that it not be called “Trumpcare,” but Trump called it “our bill” in a tweet, so . . .

Breitbart called the AHCA “Obamacare-lite.” They have been hugely critical of it and key Republicans who’ve championed it. I wonder if that will have any effect on Doyle’s access to senior White House officials?

I imagine Breitbart is already on the president’s shit list over the wiretapping story. This played out in such an odd, yet somehow typical way. President Trump, angry over Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from any investigations of the Trump campaign, chewed out Bannon and Priebus before taking off to Florida leaving them behind in the dog house.

The next morning, Trump woke up angry and was given a copy of a Breitbart story that summarized radio host Mark Levin’s theory about an unverified report in the British press saying the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted a warrant for a server in Philadelphia belonging to Trump. Probably this one.

Trump responded by tweeting:

Boom. Drunk uncle strikes again. Trump accused President Obama of tapping his phone, of interfering in the election, and of being “bad” and “sick.” All this over a breathless headline on Breitbart. The only difference is that when your uncle forwards you the crazy crap he reads, you can ignore it. President Trump called on the House Oversight Committee to investigate Obama. To which Rep. Jason Chaffetz (who just said he wasn’t going to investigate Trump’s claims that 3-5 million people voted illegally) said, he hasn’t seen any evidence to support an investigation but he didn’t say no.

Consider this for a second: In his view, Trump has uncovered a “Nixon/Watergate” level scandal in his own White House involving his predecessor. Fewer than 30 minutes later he tweets about Swartzeneggar quitting “The Apprentice” and goes out for a round of golf. Does he not understand the seriousness of the charge? Does he not believe the charge? Does no one hold him accountable for his actions?

The White House scrambled to find a justification for the accusations and presented a list of news clippings that all depended on the reporting of the original (and unverified) story in Heatstreet. So, rather than come up empty handed, Trump punted it to Chaffetz. Let him come up empty handed. FBI Director James Comey asked the DoJ to refuse the request for an investigation. The White House said they’re done talking about it until Congress does its oversight job.

I can’t believe that my friends who voted for Trump were voting for this — a paranoid old man who flies to Florida every weekend to play golf? A president who parades his cabinet members around his private club in Palm Beach so that members who have paid him $200,000 have access? A man who may have to issue a bunch of retroactive ethics waivers for his inner circle?

 

Oh . . . you mean *that* Russian

ap-jeff-sessionsWay back in 1972, then-president Richard Nixon had a problem. His attorney general John Mitchell had resigned due to his involvement in Watergate. The investigation was ongoing and Nixon had to appoint someone to finish it.

Nixon chose Richard G. Kleindienst, the acting attorney general.

During this time, the Department of Justice was pursuing an antitrust case against ITT corporation. This was complicated by a couple of factors 1) their involvement in the 1964 coup in Brazil and 2) Their funding of the 1972 Republican National Convention.

When Kleindienst appeared before the senate for his confirmation hearing, he was asked several times if he’d spoken to anyone in the White House about the ITT case. Why? Because the attorney general and the DoJ are supposed to be independent of the White House. The president doesn’t give orders to the AG and the AG doesn’t consult the president on open investigations.

Kleindienst answered that he’d had no contact with the White House about ITT. He was confirmed as attorney general. Eventually, when a special prosecutor was appointed to look into Watergate, his team discovered a recording of an Oval Office phone call between President Nixon and Kleindienst in which the president told him to “drop the ITT case.”

So, Kleindienst had lied to the senate. When questioned about it, he claimed he thought the senator’s question was narrowly focused on a particular period of time, not the length of the entire ITT case. The special prosecutor filed criminal charges against Kleindienst, who resigned and plead guilty to lying to congress.

Skip to 2017 and President Trump’s pick to lead the Justice Department, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. At his confirmation hearing, Sen. Al Franken asked:

“If it’s true, it’s obviously pretty serious. And if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian Government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

To which Sessions responded:

“I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

You’ll notice that Franken didn’t ask Sessions if he’d had contact with the Russians. He asked what Sessions would do as AG if it turns out Trump campaign officials (of which Sessions was one) had had contact with the Russians. Sessions volunteered that he had no contact.

So when it came out that Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign, it appeared that Sessions lied under oath. He responded to this accusation by claiming he met with Kislyak in his role as a senator on the Armed Services Committee. But none of the other members of the committee met with Kislyak. And Sessions didn’t correct the record even after seeing his colleague Mike Flynn resign over failing to disclose his conversations with the very same Russian. As a side note, what is it about Kislyak that makes conversations with him so forgettable? No one can seem to remember meeting with him and when they’re reminded, they can’t recall if the subject of the thing that was consuming their lives at the moment came up.

Are we seeing the pattern here? An attorney general lies during his confirmation hearing. He’s caught. He claims he misinterpreted the question. The next step is resignation. Or it would be if he had any honor.

So where does that leave us? It seems a lot of Trump officials met with Russians during the campaign. Kislyak was at the RNC convention where at least some of these meetings took place.

Paul Manafort was fired by Team Trump when his name was discovered in a hand-written ledger in locked safe in the office of a Russian oligarch for whom Manafort used to lobby. The ledger denoted a $12 million payout to Manafort. Actually, that wasn’t the triggering event. Manafort didn’t disclose his lobbying on behalf of a foreign entity, which is a felony.

Carter Page was a Trump aide with experience in global energy production and ties to several Russian state-run energy companies. He denied he met with Kislyak even as he was fired from the campaign. He kept on denying it until about yesterday. But back in July, when asked if he met Kislyak at the Republican Convention, he issued one of the most bizarre non-denial denials I’ve ever read:

“I can neither confirm or deny any meeting with him at that event in the interest of respecting the confidentiality rules that people agreed to as it was an off-the-record session.”

Uh, dude. Saying “it was an off-the-record session” is a confirmation that the meeting took place.

Now, Team Trump says these meetings at the convention took place, but they were just “get-to-know” meet and greets. Nothing nefarious about them. We can all relate to that, right? Secretive off-the-record meet-and-greets between campaign officials and Russian diplomats? The kind that no one can seem to recall having or what was said? The kind Team Trump denied happened like 20 times?

Now, remember what happened at that convention. Team Trump’s only input into the RNC platform was to soften the Republican stance from arming Ukrainians against Russian invaders to providing “appropriate assistance” to Ukrainians.  Trump denied he had anything to do with that.

Michael Flynn was Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor. He resigned when it was discovered that he lied to both the FBI and Vice President Pence about his conversations with Kislyak on the day President Obama announced sanctions against Russia for interfering in our elections. Again, he claimed he couldn’t remember what they talked about.

Trump’s son-in-law and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner along with Mike Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower back in December. Funny thing about that meeting: the security tapes don’t show Kisylak entering or leaving Trump Tower, which suggests they brought him in some back way. That’s not normally what you’d do if the meeting was legit. It’s not like Kisylak would have been mobbed on the streets if he’d walked in the front door.

Donald Trump, Jr. was paid $50,000 for a speech about Syria at a French think tank called the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. If you’re wondering what junior has to say about Syria that could possibly be worth 50 large, you’re not alone. Turns out the directors of the think tank once nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for a Nobel Prize.

Trump’s new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is the single largest shareholder of the Bank of Cyprus, which was fined $630 million by the DoJ for laundering money from Russian oligarchs. One of those oligarchs bought a house from Trump in Florida in which the future president made a tidy profit. Not one senator questioned Ross’s ties to Russia.

Yesterday, Sessions held a press conference to say he was recusing himself from any investigations dealing with the Trump campaign. This is too narrow. This is also unsustainable as the investigation would fall to the deputy AG who would be forced to investigate his boss. We need an independent prosecutor at a minimum and a non-partisan 9/11-style commission to investigate what really went on between Russia and the Trump campaign. We need to see Trump’s taxes to see if he has any financial ties to Putin.

Until that happens, expect to see more of the daily drip, drip, drip that keeps the story out front, and hijack’s Trump’s agenda. You know how you can tell when Trump is in trouble? He does stuff like this: