The chaos President was in peak form this weekend, baiting Kim Jong Un and stirring racial tensions, while the rest of America fought to save healthcare.
It was a big week for yet another health care repeal bill, which mercifully seems dead in the water thanks to John McCain. Trump woke up mad at John McCain over that this morning, tried to butter up Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski in the hopes she’ll vote for that monstrosity, and tried the same approach on Rand Paul, even though he had trashed Paul on Twitter the previous day.
Although he pretends it is the issue nearest and dearest to his heart, Trump hasn’t done much of anything to help push any of the Obamacare repeal bills through the Congress except grumpily tweet. Finally, yesterday morning, now that the bill is probably dead, he managed to say some mumbo-jumbo about how block grants are the best and premiums have gone up. He’s likely disconnected from this because actually talking about healthcare is wonky and exhausting and doesn’t actually leave all that much room for belligerence. Earlier in the week, all Trump really did was throw a couple of random tweets out there praising one of the bill’s co-authors, Bill Cassidy, but that was really about it. Oh, except for the part where he completely lied about how the Graham-Cassidy bill covers pre-existing conditions, which it absolutely does not.
Trump tweeted a lot about his big visit to the United Nations this week, complete with a ubiquitous #AmericaFirst hashtag. Of course, it is no surprise that Trump doesn’t see an America First viewpoint as diametrically opposed to the entire spirit of the UN. He also used his United Nations time to casually mention that if necessary, he’d totally destroy North Korea.
Trump used Twitter to explain that the entire Russian interference thing is a hoax and therefore that any allegations related to the Russians buying Facebook ads to influence the election are presumably untrue. Given that Facebook itself has already confirmed it sold the ads and has already turned them over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the “hoax” stance is nonsensical.
Outside of Twitter, Trump definitely ended the work week on a low note, even for Trump. He went to Alabama to campaign for Luther Strange, a horrible GOP person who is facing off against another horrible GOP person, Roy Moore, for Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat. Notably, he didn’t spend a lot of time talking about Mr. Strange.
Instead, he taunted North Korea’s Kim Jong Un again, calling him “little rocket man,” but honestly he’s doing that so much lately that it hardly bears mentioning. (On the other hand, this week he had nothing but praise for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strongman who has his security detail beat up U.S. citizens.)
He also used his time to bash Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have taken a knee during the national anthem. This is a thing the President of the United States, the person we used to call the leader of the free world, said at a political rally Friday night:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!’”
Not content to call for private employers to fire private employees over speech he doesn’t like, Trump then lamented that the NFL is getting too soft because it has taken incredibly minor steps towards trying to stop players from getting incredibly massive concussions.
And then the weekend hit, and Trump doubled (tripled) down on Twitter. On Saturday, Trump said that since football players have the “privilege” of making millions, they have to stand for the anthem. After the NFL spent all day Saturday dragging him over that, Trump woke up petulant on Sunday and declared that players who take a knee should be fired or suspended or people would stop watching the NFL. Totally normal thing for the president of the United States to be threatening.
Enough about Trump. What terrible things were Trump-adjacent people doing this week?
EPA head Scott Pruitt continues to be one of the worst people in an administration of universally awful people. CNN just obtained emails showing that Pruitt met with Tom Collier, a mining company CEO, on May 1, and then literally within hours of the meeting, he told the EPA to kill a plan to protect a wild salmon fishery in Alaska. Why? Because if the protection rule is killed, Collier’s company can open a mine there, of course. Pruitt also weirdly has a giant 24/7 security detail, now partially staffed by agents who normally investigate environmental crimes but instead now get to babysit Pruitt.
Pruitt also couldn’t really be bothered to do much in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While rain was still being dumped on Texas and people were dying, Pruitt took the time to go talk to Breitbart and complain that the “opportunistic media” was using the hurricane devastation to talk about climate change and that just wasn’t fair. He didn’t even send anyone to look at the flooded Texas Superfund sites. Those Superfund locations include things like acid pits with acid so strong it could chew through the feet of dogs.) The EPA said it couldn’t get to the sites to assess the damage, but the AP managed to get to a bunch of them on foot or in a vehicle, so that’s just another lie.
Given that the administration appears to be unable to kill Obamacare via the legislative process, they’re going to do it by making it impossible for people to enroll. Health and Human Services announced that it will have planned downtime (which means people can’t enroll at all) for all but one Sunday of the entire open enrollment period. Meanwhile, HHS Secretary Tom Price has taken private charter jets to the tune of $300,000 in the last few months, including taking a Lear jet to the Aspen Ideas Festival.
We didn’t know during the election that “drain the swamp” meant “change the regulatory structure to allow American gunmakers to sell assault rifles to foreign purchasers” but here we are. Trump is going to shift the authority to oversee those sales from the State Department (which is, ostensibly at least, worried about international threats) to the Commerce Department, which just wants to sell and trade stuff.
Over at the Department of the Interior, which is supposed to concern itself with preservation, Secretary Ryan Zinke is working hard by installing the video game Big Buck Hunter in the employee cafeteria. He loves the idea of this so much he issued an official Department of the Interior press release about it and explained how it will promote hunting and fishing. This administration is full of deeply stupid people.
Trump is finally getting around to appointing some more executive agency employees and judges, and you are really going to wish he hadn’t. Politico reviewed 42 resumes of appointees and found that for 22 of them, their primary experience seemed to be…working on Trump’s campaign. Who is going to help run the USDA at high levels? A truck driver who helped Trump win in Ohio is going to oversee the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which works on developing overseas markets. A former cabana attendant and 2016 college graduate from one of Trump’s clubs will be an assistant at the Agricultural Marketing Service. Great.
There’s finally an appointment for the head of the Office of Civil Rights over at the Department of Homeland Security. With Trump pushing Muslim bans and threatening to deport DREAMers, that office could in theory help ensure that the rights of minorities are not violated during those efforts. This woman won’t help do that, though. Cameron Quinn’s job before this was as a GOP election lawyer who represents groups that try to suppress minority voters.
In Texas, Trump has nominated Jeff Mateer to sit on the federal district court bench. Just a couple years ago, Mateer gave a speech about how marriage equality will lead to four people being able to get married or people trying to marry a tree, which is such an old chestnut of an argument. He also said vicious uninformed things about trans youth and whinged about how it is sad that states are starting to ban conversion therapy, the horrible and psychiatrically unsound practice of forcing LGBT children to try to be straight. So, he’ll fit right in on the Texas judicial bench, sadly.
Over in North Carolina, Trump has tapped Thomas Farr for a judgeship. Farr worked for Jesse Helms in 1992 and defended the Helms campaign against allegations of voter intimidation. The Helms campaign sent 100,000 postcards to black voters that said they were ineligible to vote and they would be arrested if they tried. More recently, he’s defended North Carolina over its super-gerrymandered voting districts. At least Trump is staying on brand with these nominations.
A preview of next week: the Muslim travel ban expires Sunday. After that, Trump can choose not to renew it, keep it as is, or expand it. Given that the administration tried to bury a report showing that refugees provide a positive economic benefit—in the billions—to the United States, it doesn’t seem likely that Trump would scale back or drop a travel ban. A spokesperson from DHS has already said that Trump might add even more countries to the ban. Really something to look forward to. And of course, we’re sure, more of his terrible tweets.
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