The Trump Circle of Trust Closes (The Trump/Nixon Tapes Part 9)

Trump-Nixon 9What follows is a transcript of secret recordings made in the Oval Office by President Trump using the recording devices first placed there by President Richard Nixon. President Trump often uses these recordings to arrange his thoughts and the transcripts are distributed to his underlings so that they have a record of his directives and so that he might review the tapes and remember what he asked his staff to do that they ignored. 

To: The Trump Circle of Trust

CC: no one but my children

TRUMP:

Okay, I assume we’re rolling here. Sheila, when you hear this, I want you to transcribe it, then take that red pill I gave you so that you don’t remember what I said. It is imperative that only the Trump Circle of Trust gets these messages.

Vladimir, I want to start by complimenting you on the amazing head job you did on Rand Paul. I have no idea what you have on that son-of-a-bitch but he has completely turned around and is now 100 percent on the Trump Train. Спасибо Mr. President. Like all right-thinking Americans, he understands that I can’t have a mole in my administration going around writing amonmus . . . uh amon-y-mous . . . amoney-yous editorials in the Failing New York Times.

That reminds me, Sheila? Where’s my copy of the Failing New York Times? You know I need it on my desk every morning before I have my first Diet Coke of the day. I want to read what Liz Smith thinks about Bob Woodward’s book about me.

What? Liz is dead? When did that happen? Last November? What have I been pretending to read for the last ten months? Never mind. Get me the Times.

Stephen-MillerWhat was I saying? Oh yeah. The mole. I am confident we’ll find out who it is. I’ll put Niedermeyer on it. He’s a sneaky little shit. Better yet, let’s get our own mole inside the administration to write an ammonia op-ed for the Failing New York Times. This one will tell the truth about what’s going on here. Sarah? I want you to tell Raj to write an amoeba-mass op-ed about how I won 306 Electrical College votes when everyone said there was no path to 270. I’d tell him myself but I don’t like talking to brown people who aren’t famous. Tell him to mention how I’m doing better than any other president ever has. Don’t forget to mention that I’m more popular than any Republican president in history. Show them the Abe Lincoln polls that Kelly Anne told me absolutely exist. Hold on a sec:

That’s better. Can you believe that? I’m more popular than Honest Abe?

Boy, that was some rally in Montana last night, right? There are only like 14 people who live in Montana and there must have been four million in that crowd. I don’t know. 4 million, maybe 5. We had so many people there we had to have them sit behind me in shifts. Amazing.

There might have been more people in that crowd than were at my Inauguration. I’m pretty sure I hit all the talking points Sarah wanted me to. I don’t remember much of it because I usually go into a fugue state about ten minutes in. I’m pretty sure I remembered to mention that guy who beat up the reporter and then lied to the police about it. Great guy. A real fighter.

Did I mention Hannity? I promised Sean I’d give him a shout out.

Dale Tweet 2

What about Kim Jong Un? I had a note in my pocket reminding me to mention all the great things he says about me but I can’t read it. My handwriting is just too presidential for even me to read.

Dale tweet 1

Hey, Gen. Kelly, How are we coming along on finding out the name of the coward who wrote that Bob Woodward book? It is a shame what happened to Bob. He’s written so many good books going all the way back to Nixon — to be brainwashed by the Deep State just in time to write about me, the greatest president ever — it’s sad, really. Why didn’t anyone tell me someone was writing a fake Bob Woodward book

I haven’t been watching the hearings because they aren’t about me. How is the Kavanaugh thing going? Good, right? I mean who cares, really. Mitch broke the system and now I can appoint anyone I want to the Supreme Court. It wouldn’t matter if he committed perjury, said he wouldn’t recuse himself on the phony Russia thing like that retard Sessions did, had a woman sitting behind him flashing a White Power sign, or I don’t know, tried to stop Hillary Clinton from getting funding for 9/11 victims. He was a shoe-in the minute Jared paid off his credit cards.

That’s what I love about this country. A boy from the mean streets of Bethesda, Maryland can grow up to one day be involved in one of the most corrupt administrations in American history and then get appointed to the Supreme Court by the greatest president ever. Sarah? Tell Raj to put that in his amoral-moose op-ed. That sounds great.

So guys, I’m thinking I should burn something Nike. But it should be big, you know? Maybe I could burn down the Nike Store in Trump Tower? No. Wait. I forgot those sprinklers are hot glued to the ceiling in that building. I think the NBC guys put them up.

Hey, that’s too bad about Burt Reynolds. He was a hell of a guy. Sheila? Get me Loni Anderson’s number. She might need some comforting. Maybe I could take her furniture shopping or something.

[End of Recording]

 

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Trump Puts the “BS” in BSA

trump scoutsI’ve made no secret about my feelings regarding the current president. In my opinion, he is a disaster for this country — unmoored, unhinged, and unreliable. He is incapable of controlling himself, showing proper decorum, and acting like someone who is supposed to be our leader. The president is not an honorable man. He is vulgar, short-tempered, and unwilling to learn what it takes to do the job properly.

Yesterday, President Trump gave a speech to nearly 40,000 Boy Scouts at the National Jamboree. This is traditional. So one can forgive the BSA for extending this invitation to the president. It isn’t a hard gig — you get up there, you say some words about the Scout Law or the Scout Oath, you encourage these young leaders to go into public service and government work, and you inspire them to be loyal to their country.

What you don’t do is tell stories about cocktail parties you attended where you rubbed elbows with billionaires infamous for their sexual exploits. You don’t curse. You don’t encourage these young people to “boo” your political adversaries. You don’t rehash an election. You don’t undermine national institutions. You don’t bring up old grievances. You try to embody the 12 points of the Scout Law and you end with “God bless the United States of America.”

It should be a break from the scandals and headaches of the office. No one expects you to talk about your struggles in passing legislation or your fights with other members of your party. These are kids. Try to inspire something in them besides pettiness and avarice.

I was a Cub Scout, a Webelo, and a Boy Scout. I spent the summer before my freshman year of high school hiking the Rocky Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico (one of the BSA’s High Adventure camps). I spent the two summers after that as a camp counselor at Boxwell Scout Reservation teaching young people first aid, cooking, signaling, and wilderness survival. I was a patrol leader, a senior patrol leader, a den chief, and a Scoutmaster. The accomplishments I achieved during my years in Scouting remain some of my proudest. And while the BSA has struggled at times with 21st-century realities, those early stumbles are being addressed. The organization is more inclusive now than when I was a young man in olive drab.

So Scouting holds a special place in my life. That’s why President Trump’s speech makes me so angry.

The president embarrassed himself out there and probably doesn’t even know it. He also embarrassed the BSA. This will be a real test of BSA leadership. Those of us who follow this stuff are looking to see how the organization will react to this speech. How will they address the angry parents, troop leaders, and former Scouts who were appalled by this display of vulgarity and ignominy?

It is hard to describe how much the president betrayed the traditions of Scouting with that speech. Boy Scouts are taught from the beginning to be of service to others. To not make it about them. They are discouraged from appearing in uniform at political events. The National Jamboree is there to celebrate Scouting and Trump made it about himself — his electoral college victory, his perceived lack of respect in Washington, and his petty feud with the media. It was shocking because it was so out of place. Presidents have spoken at the National Jamboree since its inception in 1937. This is the first time the president’s speech has been controversial because this president is incapable of propriety. He cannot control himself. You may say “Mike, how can you say that about a grown man you don’t know?” Because if he could control himself, this would have been the speech to show it. These are kids. They don’t need to hear about your beef with Hillary Clinton. They don’t need to be encouraged to boo anyone, much less the former president who was a Boy Scout. This president does not embody the Scout Law. I’ll show you.

A Scout is Trustworthy:

President Donald Trump has told so many lies while in office that major news organizations are keeping a running list. He lies about big things. He lies about little things. He lies when the truth will suffice. He lies about things that don’t matter. He lies about things no one cares about. He lies to make himself look better. He has a plaque at his Trump National Golf Course commemorating a Civil War battle that never happened. It also features a Trump family crest that he stole, replacing the word “integrity” with “Trump.” Trump is not trustworthy.

A Scout is Loyal:

Much has been made about the president’s demands for personal loyalty. When he began to quote the Scout Law in his speech, he paused at “loyal” to make some snarky comments about the lack of loyalty in Washington. But loyalty goes both ways and the president doesn’t demonstrate loyalty to the people around him. For example, he has been openly criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions (an Eagle Scout who was not invited to the National Jamboree with the president). Sessions was one of the earliest politicians to support Trump. He’s now holding onto his job by a thread, while Trump floats replacing him because he is under the mistaken impression that the attorney general works for him and not the people. Trump is not loyal.

A Scout is Helpful:

Trump helps himself and his family by giving them access to government largess and allowing them to grift from the seat of power. But that’s not what the Scout Law is about. Trump helps ISIS by criticizing Islam and changing sides in the Syrian civil war. But he doesn’t help the American people by undermining our national institutions, attempting to take away their health insurance, and breaking his campaign promises with regard to the social safety nets of Medicaid and Social Security. Trump is not helpful.

A Scout is Friendly:

Trump claims to have lots of friends. Sometimes he makes them up, like his friend “Jim” who doesn’t go to Paris anymore. Sometimes he lies about his friendships like with Pavarotti. Sometimes he pretends to be his own friend so he can brag to reporters about how great he is. Trump is not friendly.

A Scout is Courteous:

giphy

The president doesn’t hold his wife’s hand while she negotiates stairs in heels. He doesn’t open the car door for her or even allow her to get into the car first, using the door closest to the entrance. People who know Trump use a lot of adjectives to describe him. “Courteous” isn’t on the list. You have to have respect for others to be courteous to them. Trump demands respect from others, he doesn’t offer it in return. Trump is not courteous.

A Scout is Kind: 

Eric Trump’s charity, which raises money for childhood cancer research, was recently embroiled in a scandal when researchers discovered that Donald Trump insists on gouging his son’s charity for the use of his golf course, which is the venue for Eric Trump’s big annual fundraiser. All told, Trump skimmed $1.2 million in charitable donations from kids with cancer to the Trump Organization. Trump is not kind.

A Scout is Obedient:

The president was having trouble hiring a personal lawyer to help him with his Russia problems. Four of the top D.C. law firms turned him down citing two specific issues with having Trump as a client: 1) he doesn’t pay his bills and 2) he doesn’t do what he’s told. When you sit in the big chair, it is easy to believe that no one tells you what to do and even if they did, you’re in charge, so you don’t have to listen. But the president works for the people. He’s not a ruler. He doesn’t reign over us. He’s our leader. He is answerable to us. Trump is not obedient.

A Scout is Cheerful:

To be cheerful is to be noticeably happy and optimistic. The president is neither of those things. His entire campaign was based on the idea that America is no longer great. His convention speech highlighted his perceived problems in the country and how only he could fix them. Since taking office, he’s complained and grumbled about how things are done in Washington. His Twitter feed, his main form of communication with the American people,  is a litany of petty grievances, deflection, and lies. Trump is not cheerful.

A Scout is Thrifty:

trump towerBefore becoming president, Trump lived in a golden tower surrounded by golden furniture, golden fixtures, golden wallpaper, etc… Before this speech, the president’s previous interaction with the BSA was in 1989 when his son, Don, Jr. joined a local Scout Troop. The fee to join was $7. Trump didn’t pay it out of his pocket. He had his “charity” pay it — the smallest “gift” the Donald Trump Foundation has on record. A man who will spend millions on golden thrones to rest his ample backside, but requires his “charity” to pay the $7 for his son to join the Boy Scouts is not thrifty. Trump is miserly.

A Scout is Brave: 

In 1968, Donald Trump was 22 years old. He was playing football, tennis, squash, and was taking up golf. He was an athlete in high school and college — the picture of health. But when the government enacted the draft for the Vietnam war, he suddenly developed bone spurs in his feet which wouldn’t allow him to serve. Years later, when he ran for president, he often referenced his time in the New York Military Academy as a place where he got “more training” than people in the military. In an interview with Howard Stern, Trump claimed avoiding the STDs from all the women he slept with was his own personal Vietnam. Trump is not brave.

A Scout is Clean:

It is a well-established fact that the president is a germaphobe. He said as much when rumors about urinating Russian prostitutes were in the news. This point of the Scout Law doesn’t just refer to literal cleanliness. Scouts spend a lot of time in dirty situations. It is more about “clean living” than compulsively washing your hands or eating fried chicken with a knife and fork. The president has been ensnared by his celebrity and has used that celebrity to live a life that borders on debauchery. He makes comments about being attracted to his daughter. He was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women, pursuing married women, and using his status to influence them. Trump is not clean.

A Scout is Reverent: 

One would be hard pressed to find an instance of Trump being reverent. He shows no respect for others. He’s not one to defer to tradition or decorum. He acts as if the rules do not apply to him. He carries grudges. He spreads lies. He’s greedy and ignorant. He hasn’t got a solemn bone in his body. He may have the support of a slice of Evangelical Christians, but he has no respect for them. If he did, he wouldn’t get up on a stage in front of 40,000 young people and tell a meandering story about one of his billionaire friends known for hosting orgies on his yacht. Trump is not reverent.

The president owes the Boy Scouts an apology. The BSA owes the Scouts who attended this event some guidance as to how to process what they heard and how, despite much of it going against everything they’re being taught as Scouts, they should continue to better themselves and not model the President of the United States, because that man is no Scout.

They’re Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha Ho Ho Hee Hee (The Trump/Nixon Tapes Part 5)

Trump Jackson Screwball[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: Speaker Paul Ryan

I swear. You people are going to put me in the looney bin. Why is everyone talking like I’m crazy? Morning Joe? George Will? The Washington Post? CNBC? NPR? They’re all talking about how I’m losing it. Like I got a screw loose! Can you believe it? I mean, I expect that sort of thing from Keith Olberman, but Terry Gross? What did I ever do to her?

This is completely unfair. So I occasionally have trouble getting the words out. Or I confuse names. Or I repeat simple phrases over and over again. Or I talk about dead people as if they’re still alive. Or I forget how government works. Or I’m afraid of stairs. Or I compliment dictators and strongmen around the world.

Speaking of which, I heard Kim Jong-un’s dad has a hell of a golf swing. Maybe I should invite him out to Mar-a-Lago for 18 holes and we can work this whole nuclear thing out. Sheila? Get me Kim Jong-il on the phone. What? Dead? When? Does Kim-Jong-un know? He’s a smart cookie. I bet he does know. Any word on how his golf game is? If he’s anything like his old man, it’s tremendous.

Someone might have mentioned that Andrew Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War started. Or that the Civil War is one of the most researched questions historians have written about. Am I the only 70-year-old white man who hasn’t watched a thousand documentaries about the Civil War? To see my Twitter mentions, you’d think so. Don’t worry, though. I fixed it.

I genuinely believe Andrew Jackson saw the Civil War coming and was really mad about it. Look at a $20 bill. Doesn’t he seem angry? Someone ask Steve Mnuchin if we can put me on some money. I’m thinking we bring back the $20 gold coin and put my face on one side and me standing at the 14th hole at Trump National on the other. Just make sure it shows the plaque memorializing that “River of Blood” Civil War battle that the fake news people at the failing Golf Digest say never happened.

How about that health care bill, huh? Great job everybody. We twisted arms and prodded those squishy moderates then all of a sudden we got us an Obamacare replacement that does everything I promised it would do. It covers everybody. What was that, Shiela? 27 million? Really? Well, it protects people with pre-existing conditions. What? No? Are you sure? I’m pretty sure I saw Paul say it would protect pre-existing conditions. It will jack up their premiums? But I promised it would lower premiums. I said it would cost a tiny fraction of what Obamacare costs. I remember it clearly because that was a huge applause line. Ugh, am I going to have to read this bill? Shiela? Get someone in here to read this bill for me.

[tape pauses for 8 minutes]

Enough! Enough! Get out! Who knew health care could be so boring? Am I right? Shiela? Tell Paul, I’ll take his word for it. Man, I thought I was going to die listening to that. Good thing I’ve got great health insurance. Whew. I’ll tell ya, that was brutal. I did catch something about Medicaid in there. I assume we’re keeping my promise to not cut Medicaid, right? I really gave ole’ Huckabee the business on Twitter that time he copied me.

Wait, what was that, Shiela? You were mumbling something. Block grants to the states? What’s that? Oh. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. I mean what’s $880 billion? It’s not like that’s serious money. It’s probably mostly fraud and waste, right? What? What’s a “special-needs kid?” Oh, come on. Really? What about vets? Them too? So who gets the $880 billion? Tax cuts for billionaires? And they voted for that? Wow. Unbelievable. I’m sure everyone else is okay with it, though. What? Well, yeah, I’ll sign it. I promised, didn’t I?

Man, I’m bushed. I hope I don’t say something to undercut our entire argument when I meet with the Australian prime minister tonight. You know how I get when I haven’t had my well-done steak with ketchup.

Okay. Now that we’re finished with repeal and replace can we move on to something else? I am so tired of pretending I care about health care. I need to get out of Washington for a few days. Maybe I’ll go visit Melania in New York. That’s the one place in the country where I know they love me. New York is my town. What’s that, Shiela? Mike Pence has another executive order for me to sign? I sure do sign a lot of these things for someone who used to really hate the idea of presidents signing executive orders.

What’s this one about? Religious Freedom? Is it the one where we let Christians discriminate against gay people or the one where we let churches fundraise for politicians? Both? Ask Mike if he can combine them into one, I don’t want to sign two of them. I’ve only got so much left in in the old tank today and I’m trying to make a tee time at Trump National. Oh, has Ivanka signed off on this? Well, at least no one can get mad about this one, right?

Shiela? Tell Steve Mnuchin that when he’s done with his weekly meeting with Ivanka that I need to see her. I want to give her a hug and tell her it’s going to be okay. Everybody puts fake quotes in their book nowadays. Nobody cares except a bunch of nerds that are going to find something to complain about no matter what you write. Shiela? Get the State Department on the phone. They’re not doing anything important. Maybe they can help goose her book sales a bit.

You know, I’m getting a little sick of the attitudes around here. Maybe some of you need a little refresher course in who is in charge. Shiela? What can I do to punish a bunch of federal employees that requires virtually no effort on my part?

Okay, I’m off the New York. Good job on the . . . uh . . . health care thing . . . and stuff. Just terrific. Really. I’m sure that’s going to be a huge, huge, part of my legacy.

 

Trump and Ryan Celebrate Bullying Their Own Party Into Supporting A Bad Bill That Will Never Become Law

trump-and-paul-ryanThe House voted 217 to 213 to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This cynical divisive act of cowardice served one (and only one) purpose — to give Donald Trump a legislative “victory.” But what did they win, exactly? I can guarantee you that, even as Trump talks about how great this plan is, he has no idea what the bill does. None. He just knows it must be a good plan because it passed.

During the campaign, Trump promised universal coverage at “a tiny fraction of the cost” and “it will be so easy.” It was only after he was elected that he realized how complicated health care is. By most estimates, it counts for a sixth of our economy and House Republicans passed it without knowing what was in it.

I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t Nancy Pelosi, when she was the speaker, say they had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it? No. That’s one of the enduring myths of Obamacare — a quote, truncated and removed from its context then used as a bludgeon. The Affordable Care Act took 18 months to develop. There were hours and hours of hearings and debates. President Obama toured the country promoting it and taking ownership of it. During that year and a half, we lost Sen. Ted Kennedy and had to endure a special election. Democrats (though they controlled both houses) negotiated away popular provisions such as the public option to garner bipartisan support, incorporating demand after demand from Republicans only to have them vote no anyway. So no, the ACA wasn’t “rammed through” like so many Republicans claim.

The bill that passed the House yesterday was debated for six hours. No amendments were allowed. No hearings were held. There was no score from the Congressional Budget Office letting us know how much it would cost or what the impact would be on the people. The previous version (the one that didn’t make it to a floor vote) was going to kick 27 million people off their health insurance. It was polling at 17 percent. Somehow, I doubt this version will be any better and, when the CBO score comes out in a week or so, we’re likely to find that it is much worse.

Why did they have to rush this? What was the hurry? One reason is that the Trump administration needed some legislative victory to tout. The president just held a 100-day rally in a town he once referred to as a “war zone” and all he could say was that he nominated a Supreme Court justice (which was McConnell more than Trump) and he signed a bunch of executive orders, which were themselves broken campaign promises. The evidence of this assertion is that after voting on the bill, House Republicans got on buses and rode to the White House for a Trump victory celebration. What were they celebrating? Paul Ryan and Donald Trump had bullied their own party into supporting bad legislation? That’s a win?

Trump said Obamacare is “dead” well, “essentially dead.” He described the Republican bill as “something that is very, very, incredibly well-crafted.” I can guarantee you with all certainty that he has no idea what is in that bill. Most of the Republicans who voted for it hadn’t read it.

Now, I can break down for you all the terrible things in this bill, such as how it declares being a woman a pre-existing condition, screws over special-needs kids, cuts Medicaid funds that help the poor to fund a tax cut for the wealthy, and offers states a waiver to allow insurance companies to jack up rates on pre-existing conditions and old people. But what’s the point? This bill will never become law. The Senate is going to start from scratch. That’s the thing that really bothers me about this. The AHCA will be DOA in the Senate. So all the arm twisting and bullying to get the votes they needed in the House was just so Trump could have his Rose Garden photo op:

It was a sea of white men all celebrating killing health care for at least 27 million people and passing a tax cut for people making more than $250,000 a year. They are so proud and happy. But most of them don’t even know what they voted for because what they really voted for was for Paul Ryan to keep his leadership post. Aside from Trump’s photo op, that was the priority here. Because if Ryan failed to pass a bill on this third try, then his speakership was going to be over. In fact, the entire House leadership team would have been kicked out.

Think about that. If you were a rank-and-file member, that conversation had to go something like:

“We need you to support this bill.”

“Can I read it?”

“We don’t have draft language yet.”

“What about a CBO score?”

“Nope.”

“Is it popular with the public?”

“Polling nationally at about 17 percent.”

“This bill sounds awful.”

“Don’t worry. You and your staff will get an exemption from whatever is in it.”

“Why should I vote for it?”

“If it fails again, the entire House leadership will be fired and you might have to take one of the posts.”

“Oh hell no!”

The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospitals Association, the AARP, insurance companies, and editorial boards across the country all oppose this bill. Perhaps the president has succeeded in uniting this country afterall.

Next week (or maybe the week after) the CBO is going to tell everyone exactly what the Republicans passed yesterday. Your congressman needs to hear from you. One of the easiest ways to make that happen is to use ResistBot to send faxes and letters to your representatives for free (though they would appreciate donations). I use it three or four times a week to let my congressman, Dr. Phil Roe, know that his district isn’t as safe as he believes. If we can’t make these people feel uneasy about something as egregious as this dumpster fire of a bill, then we’ve lost already. Next year will be the midterms and every member of congress needs to be held accountable for what they did yesterday. I’ll do my part. I’m counting on you to do yours.

Russian to Judgement or From Russia with Love?

flynn_putin_021517

By now the entire world knows that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has resigned his White House post. That makes him a record holder! He is the shortest-serving national security advisor in our nation’s history. Congratulations, general!

If we were to take the advice of Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, chair of the House Science Committee, we’d get all our news “directly from the president” and Flynn would still have a job. That’s because President Trump wouldn’t tell us anything about Flynn’s contacts with the Russians. Assuming of course that Trump knew himself. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.

On Dec. 29 2016, President Obama issued sanctions against Russia for meddling in our elections. He expelled some diplomats and took over a compound used by Russia here in the states. That same day, Flynn texts the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the two spoke on the phone multiple times.

The next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that he wouldn’t retaliate, instead offering US diplomats in Russia an invitation to the Kremlin for a Christmas party. President-elect Trump fires off a tweet:

Senior Obama officials tell reporters that they are aware of Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador.

On Jan. 15, 2017, Vice President-elect Mike Pence says in an interview that he’d spoken with Flynn about the calls and was assured that they did not discuss the sanctions. It was just a looking-forward-to-working-with-you call. He “did not discuss anything having to do with expelling Russian diplomats.

On Jan. 23, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the press corps that Flynn didn’t discuss sanctions with the ambassador.

Three days later on Jan. 26, Sally Yates, acting attorney general (remember her?), informs the White House Counsel’s office that the Department of Justice knows that Flynn talked about the sanctions with the ambassador and his denials could mean he’s susceptible to blackmail by the Russian government. Flynn “misled” Pence who in turn misled the American public. Trump asks the White House Counsel to look at the legal issues involved.

On Jan. 28, President Trump had his official call with Putin. Flynn is among those in the Oval Office listening to the call.

trump

On Feb. 1, Flynn makes a surprise appearance at the daily press briefing to make a statement about Iran launching a missile in the vicinity of a Saudi ship. Flynn said, “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” demonstrating that he continues in his job as national security advisor.

A week later on Feb. 8, Flynn again denies he spoke about sanctions with the ambassador. But the next day, Flynn’s spokesperson said Flynn “couldn’t be certain the topic didn’t come up.”

On Feb. 9, someone finally got around to telling Pence that Flynn lied to him. Also, the Washington Post broke the story about the DoJ telling the White House about Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions.

Feb. 10, Trump says he doesn’t know anything about the reports about Flynn. Spicer later clarifies that, while Trump was talking about a specific report in the Washington Post, not about the Flynn scandal in general.

Feb. 13, Flynn is still working, sitting in on calls with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Kelly Ann Conway goes on TV and says the president has “full confidence” in Flynn. Sean Spicer says the president is “evaluating the situation.” Flynn submits his resignation, still insisting he “crossed no lines.” Flynn apologizes to Pence and says in an interview that the leakers should be prosecuted. Trump echoed that sentiment:

The Nazis take Flynn’s resignation pretty hard, but they know who to blame. 

So where does that leave us? Well, with more questions than answers, really.

Why did Trump wait until the story broke publically before he fired Flynn? Had the story not broken, would Flynn still have a job? Was Flynn freelancing or did Trump tell him to contact the Russian ambassador? Flynn is the third Trump advisor to resign because of inappropriate contact with Russian officials. Was he talking with the Russians during the campaign too? Were others? Apparently yes. Several Trump campaign officials were talking with members of Russian intelligence during the campaign. Now, to be fair, there is no evidence at the moment of any sort of collusion or cooperation between the Trump camp and the Russians. But given the interference in our campaign by Russian intelligence, it would seem that an independent investigation is in order.

President Trump said Flynn was “treated very very unfairly by the media.” Trump wants to investigate where the leaks came from (he suspects the CIA and the FBI) and accused the leakers of trying to “cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.” I’m at a loss as to what kind of bubble the president must be in to believe Hillary made Flynn reach out to the Russians or what evidence he has to make such a specious claim. Were I in a position to ask the president a question, I’d like to know when he decided that leaks were a bad thing.

You may recall that during the campaign Trump was a big fan of leaks, mentioning the Wikileaks information about the internal communications of the DNC (also illegal, btw) about 150 times during the last month of the campaign. He praised Wikileaks. He praised (and repeated) erroneous FBI leaks about an imminent indictment of Hillary Clinton. But now, he’s worried about the criminality of it, the un-Americaness of it. Like CNN Anchor Jake Tapper said, “It’s not a moral position if you only hold it when it applies to you.”

The FBI says they will not prosecute Flynn over this because no one gets prosecuted for the Logan Act. The House Oversight Committee will not investigate. The House Intelligence Committee will not investigate Flynn but will investigate the leaks. Sen. John McCain wants to investigate Flynn and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said such an investigation in the Senate is “highly likely.”

Meanwhile, the Russians have a spy ship off the coast of Connecticut and seem to be testing the new president by violating a cold-war era treaty by launching a cruise missile. Oh, and they’re working with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Let’s also recall that Flynn was forced out of his last government job in 2014 (President Obama and President Trump have one thing in common, they both fired Michael Flynn).

“Former subordinates at the DIA said Flynn was so prone to dubious pronouncements that senior aides coined a term — ‘Flynn facts’ — for assertions that seemed questionable or inaccurate.”

He had a real hard on for “radical Islamic terrorism” that bordered on the fanatical, if not unhinged. He claimed his firing (along with his deputy) was a political purge by Obama because of his stance on Muslims. Retired Admiral Michael Mullen, a former chair of the joint chiefs said of Flynn’s departure from DIA, “This is not about the right to speak out, it is about the disappointing lack of judgment in doing so for crass partisan purposes. This is made worse by using hyperbolic language all the while leveraging the respected title of ‘general.’”

Flynn literally went from being one of the most respected members of the intelligence community to leading chants of “Lock her up!” at the RNC convention. That’s not something you normally see a retired general do. Neither is politicizing the intelligence services, which are traditionally (and by necessity) non-partisan.

It will be interesting to see what Flynn has to say should he be called to testify before some senate investigation. The DoJ has transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls because they routinely intercept calls to the Russian ambassador. One would think Flynn would know that and couch his language. Perhaps he did. But you’d think he’d know to avoid the subject of sanctions in the call itself, rather than just in the public statements and private conversations with the vice president.

Flynn is out and that’s a good thing. And while we won’t get an indepent investigation of the events leading to his ouster, the entire affair has a frayed edge to it. It feels like the first pulls on a thread that unravels the whole sweater. We’ll see.

The President Bannon Administration

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The New York Times came out with a behind-the-scenes report about the goings on in the West Wing. Scattered among the anonymously sourced tidbits were the usual funny stuff: the staff can’t figure out how to turn on the lights in the cabinet room. Guests aren’t escorted out after meetings so they end up wandering around the White House looking for an exit. President Trump spends much of his time in the residence fuming over cable TV news and tweeting angrily.

Among the detritus is a morsel reporting that “chief strategist” and in-house Nazi Sympathizer Steve Bannon and policy wonk Steve Miller are running things with Trump as a puppet president.

Mr. Priebus bristles at the perception that he occupies a diminished perch in the West Wing pecking order compared with previous chiefs. But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.

What does this imply? The actual presidential memorandum isn’t that long. It’s about 2,100 words over six pages. We can infer a few scenarios: 1) Trump doesn’t read the memos he signs, 2) Trump reads but doesn’t understand the memos he signs, or 3) Trump read and understood the memo, but didn’t know what the National Security Council does. None of these are particularly good conclusions. They add to the growing speculation that Trump isn’t in charge at 1600. Rather, we are living in the President Bannon administration.

When MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” did a segment about this, Trump responded on Twitter.

Those are not the words of someone confident in his position. President Trump is overwhelmed by the job, isolated from his family, and finding no solace in the public, which he assumed would respect him once he became president. That’s the trouble with electing CEOs. They’re used to their word being the last on the subject — the end of the conversation instead of the beginning. That’s just not the case with being president.

Federal Judge James Robart of the 9th Circuit issued a nationwide stay on the president’s travel ban. What we discovered is that, while the president and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed fewer than 200 people were affected by the ban (which isn’t a ban), the Justice Department canceled 100,000 visas (though the State Department says it was fewer than 60,000). Robart said the ban harms people and stopping the ban won’t harm America. He issued a stay until the EO can be properly adjudicated. If you’ve sat through sixth-grade civics, you’ll no doubt recognize the system of checks and balances those of us with a public school education were taught. The president didn’t take the news well:

Trump is either calling into question the legitimacy of Judge Robarts (a GWB appointee who received unanimous consent from the Senate) or demonstrating his lack of understanding of the role of the judiciary branch of government. And while neither are particularly good conclusions, there is some evidence to suggest it’s the latter.

After Judge Robart’s stay, Team Trump filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit arguing that Trump has “unreviewable authority” to stop any class of foreigners from entering the country. They called Robart’s stay “vague” and “untethered.” I’ve read the stay. It’s actually pretty concise. The 9th Circuit refused to reverse the stay and Trump’s Muslim ban will be headed to SCOTUS eventually.

But how did we get here? Reporting suggests Bannon and Miller crafted the EO without consulting relevant agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security (which is charged with enforcing the order), the Department of Justice (which normally provides legal opinions and might have been able to craft better language), or congressional leaders. Though some reporting says Bannon and Miller consulted with congressional staffers telling them not to tell their bosses.

This all suggests that Trump wasn’t behind the order, that perhaps he didn’t quite understand what he was signing. For example, the White House insists this isn’t a “ban” of any sort. But Trump routinely refers to it as a “ban” on Twitter.

Trump’s anger is apparent, as is his attempt to delegitimize a federal judge and the entire Judicial Branch.

First off, people aren’t “pouring in.” The people with Visas have already been thoroughly vetted — a process which can take two years if you’re a refugee. But from this tweet, you can bet that Trump will lay any terrorist attack that happens on the marble steps of the judiciary — regardless of the facts of the case.

This internal conflict also suggests Trump isn’t the one in charge in the Oval Office. While the ban was in effect, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued an order saying legal permanent residents from the seven banned countries would be allowed to enter the US. He reasoned that these “green card” holders have already jumped through the exhaustive hoops required to be a legal resident. But Steve Bannon countermanded the order. Can he do that? It’s not clear, really. Trump named Bannon “chief strategist” a position he made up (and that doesn’t require Senate approval). That means Bannon isn’t on any of the organizational charts showing his position the command structure.

Respectfully but firmly, the retired general told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with President Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.

Kelly refused to follow Bannon’s order, so the White House started negotiating with Homeland Security — a process that should have happened *before* the order was signed. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has now issued new guidelines for executing executive actions, including a 10-point checklist containing which departments should sign off before it reaches Trump’s desk. This sprang from a conference call to hash out the cabinet’s concerns over the rollout of the ban and how many of them were cut out of the process.

Bannon and Miller pushed back, defending the White House’s actions and explaining that the process and substance of the order had been kept to a close circle because the Trump administration had not yet installed its own officials in key government roles and other officials were still getting settled into place.

This would suggest that President Bannon doesn’t trust the cabinet to do its job unless Trump’s picks are in place. Bannon makes no distinction between political appointees and career public servants. So what we see is a flailing White House that’s valuing speed over direction. “Look how fast we’re cranking out the memos! We’re making America great again! Wait a minute, can a judge do that?”

Eventually, Team Trump will figure out how to work the lights. They’ll fully staff the West Wing and have things approaching a semblance of normal. Eventually, Trump will learn to read the stuff he signs, to vet executive actions to avoid spending political capital attacking federal judges, communicate with his lawyers without using Twitter, and to take control of his fledgling administration. In the meantime, these turmoils offer a chance to glance behind the curtain on the “great and powerful OZ” to see who’s really in charge. Who will we find at the controls?

What’s also interesting about this administration is what doesn’t get signed. Twice, we’ve seen reports of forthcoming executive actions that have not materialized. First was Trump’s “major investigation” of voter fraud. He was really hot for this, pointing out the problems with voter registration (not voter fraud), only to be embarrassed to discover that many of his advisors (and family) are registered to vote in more than one state. In fact, the guy Trump pointed to as an expert is himself registered in three states. Still, no executive action, just mouthing off during interviews. I guess until the investigation proves him wrong, Trump can continue to claim it was illegal votes that cost him the popular vote.

Secondly, there was a draft of an executive order floating out there which would remove many of the protections for LGBTQ people put in place by President Obama. This has also seemingly disappeared with no plans for it to be signed anytime soon. This suggests the trial balloon didn’t go over well. Trump, a Manhattanite, has never shown much interest in putting his foot on the neck of the gay community. That’s Pence’s wet dream. And while I’ve seen nothing to suggest Pence was behind the text of the order, his support for it is unquestioned. Stories suggest that it was Ivanka Trump and her husband and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner who stopped that executive action from hitting Trump’s desk. So who is in charge around here?

The Time For Nuance Is over

88160170_trump-promoWhen you ask a Trump supporter about Benghazi, they say “a disaster.” When you ask about Hillary they say “crooked.”  They aren’t worried about policy, nuanced analysis or details about what works and what doesn’t. They don’t respond to it.

They speak in code. They like short, pithy, branding-type language that cuts right to the quick. I’ve been called “snowflake” so often in the last three weeks that I thought I was the black guy in a Stanley Kubrick film about Vietnam.

You want to turn the discussion around? You have to talk like Trump. You have to put everything in terms of extremes. Hyperbole is your friend. There is no middle ground. Details are for small-picture guys.

Here’s an example. President Obama delayed action on a plan to land a SEAL team near an al Queda base in Yemen to capture intelligence useful for our counter-terrorism efforts. The Trump administration looked over the plans, declared they were good to go and sent in the team. But the lack of planning, intelligence, and support, meant the SEALs were dropped into a heavily fortified area with snipers and much more resistance than was anticipated. We lost a SEAL (Chief Petty Officer William Owens), an MV-22 transport ($75 million), and the lives of 20 civilians including an 8-year-old girl. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, said he wants to speed up the decision-making process for raids like this. You know how you do that? By not worrying about civilian casualties.

The mission was compromised early on when a communications intercept showed that al Queda had been tipped off, probably by low-flying drones. But the Americans and UAE forces pushed on. Remember all those photos of President Obama in the situation room overseeing operations like this? President Trump hosted a dinner instead. Of course Team Trump wants to blame the Obama administation for planning this raid. But if you’ll recall, Trump believes Obama is a weak leader who has presided over the decimation of the military, so why would Trump not review the plans thoroughly and decide whether such a mission was even necessary?

Now you can argue about all the little things that went wrong, about whether it should have been undertaken, about the tweet from the leader of Yemen calling it “extrajudicial killings.” But none of that will cut any ice with someone in a red MAGA hat. Think about how Trump would have described the raid had it happened on Obama’s watch.

“Yemen was a disaster. Total failure. Al Queda is laughing at us. Lots of people are telling me it could have been avoided. Shame.” 

Just start with Yemen raid = “disaster” and go from there.

Yesterday, President Trump offered remarks at a breakfast held for his black friends for African-American History Month in which he, once again, brought up the MLK statue in the Oval Office.

“Last month, we celebrated the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office, and it turned out that that was fake news. It was fake news. The statue is cherished. It’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln and we have Jefferson and we have Dr. Martin Luther King, and we have — but they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.”

Rather than give any details that suggest he knows what he’s talking about in terms of the contributions African-Americans have made to this country and our culture, he aired his grievances with the press and name-dropped black history icons like he was in third grade.

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice — Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

What? No mention of George Washington Carver? I’m willing to bet you could hold up a photo of Waka Flocka Flame and tell the president it was Frederick Douglass and he wouldn’t even blink. So Trump took the opportunity to speak at “our little breakfast” for black history month to talk about his favorite subject, himself. He talked about his black friends (Ben Carson and Omarosa). He talked about how well he did in the election and how many African-Americans voted for him. He used an event to celebrate the cultural contribution of blacks to say black communities are “terrible.”

Forget pointing out how Trump may not be aware that Frederick Douglass died 125 years ago. Forget pointing out how Trump has a grade-school knowledge of African-American culture. Forget pointing out how Trump equates blacks with inner city turmoil at every opportunity.

“Trump’s Black History Month breakfast was a disaster. He’s so embarrassing. Sad.” And repeat it until it’s as natural as breathing.

This morning, the president spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. In previous years, Obama was raked over the coals for pointing out an historical fact about the Crusades as a means of demonstrating that even his own religion had a violent past that should be addressed. It was seen as an attack on Christians. He was accused of not taking the event seriously.

President Trump took the opportunity to talk about his favorite subject again, then asked the audience to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

I also want to thank my great friends the Roma. Where’s Roma, beautiful Roma Downey, the voice of an angel. She’s got the voice — every time I hear that voice; it’s so beautiful. That — everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he’s a special, special friend. Mark Burnett for the wonderful introduction.

So true, so true. I said to the agent, I’m sorry, the only thing wrong — I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don’t want to do it, it’ll never work, it’ll never, ever work, you don’t want to do it. I said, listen. When I really fired him after it became the number one show, it became so successful and he wanted a commission and he didn’t want to this.

That’s when I really said — but we had tremendous success on The Apprentice. And when I ran for president, I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure that I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out.

The ratings went down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster and Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings, OK?

Are those the words of someone who takes the event seriously? He’s a narcissist. But calling him a narcissist doesn’t help your cause. It makes you sound like an suede elbow-patch-wearing elite intellectual. That isn’t the way to join in an argument with Trump supporters, much less win it.

“Trump is an embarrassment. Always talking about himself. No real ideas. No leadership. Can’t focus on the job.”

We have to simplify our rhetoric if we want it to stick. Use the words that moved the needle for Trump against Trump. “Trump is a disaster.” “He’s the worst president in our history.” “Trump isn’t a smart leader.” “Lots of people tell me Trump doesn’t believe America is great.” “Trump is unstable and dangerous and everybody says so.” “Trump doesn’t know anything.” “People are telling me Trump isn’t really in charge.” “Trump lets his aides run the country.” “Trump is a puppet president.” “Trump doesn’t read what he signs.” “Trump is afraid of Muslims.”

Keep your messages short, to the point, and as mean as you can make them. Avoid profanity, avoid attacking the supporters directly, and embrace the boring repetition they seem to favor over nuance. No talk about small hands, orange skin, or his dumb hair. Don’t rag on his looks. Attack his actions. Repeat his words. Show them who they put in charge.

The time for nuance is over. You win no points for knowing what you’re talking about because this isn’t high school forensics. It’s the future of our country. They’re willing to believe whatever is told to them provided it is served up in bite-size morsels they can chant at brown people. It’s time to speak their language. “Trump is unstable — a weak leader who will get us all killed. Impeach now!”