While Trump was busy demeaning gold star families, Betsy DeVos made moves to hurt special ed and the EPA continued to wreak havoc on our environment. Here’s what else you missed.
During this past week, we passed the 9-month mark of the waking nightmare that is the Trump presidency. How can it only have been 9 months? There has been a whole lifetime of terrible things packed into those 9 months. And how did Trump spend the week? Being as poor an excuse for a human being as possible.
Of course, the highest-profile atrocious behavior from Trump this week came thanks to his gobsmackingly bad handling of whether or not he’d called the families of the four American soldiers killed in Niger early this month. When asked about it at a press conference, he bragged about how he was basically the only president that calls the families of the fallen, a claim so brazenly wrong it was literally debunked while that same news conference was still going.
The next day, Trump decided to finally get around to calling the family of La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger. Trump told Johnson’s widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” We learned about this breathtaking bit of cruelty from Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was in the car with Johnson’s widow when Trump made the call.
Of course, the fact that a woman of color called him out on his behavior sent Trump into a Twitter tailspin. He called Wilson “wacky” and berated her for listening into a private conversation, as if Trump alone can control who gets to hear him talk.He insisted she lied about the content of the conversation, but then trotted out Chief of Staff and retired General John Kelly, who basically confirmed exactly what Wilson had reported that Trump said. (Oh, and let’s not forget that during all of this, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got up and said that it is highly inappropriate to ever criticize a general, which isn’t fascist at all.)
Trump also doubled down and said he’d called virtually all of the families of service members that had been killed since he took office. It took the Associated Press no time at all to debunk that too, noting that of the roughly 20 Gold Star families they’d talked to, only about half had received a call from Trump.
This is part of why Trump’s lies are so pernicious: he repeatedly lies about something easily debunked, but he doesn’t care a bit about it. In fact, he’s completely gleeful that people are beginning to mistrust the media, because it allows him to continue to mold truth in his own sick image.
Trump finished the week still tweeting about Congresswoman Wilson, who has clearly gotten under his skin for committing the unpardonable sin of disagreeing with Trump. He also made time to tweet again and again about how crooked Hillary Clinton is, because even winning the presidency isn’t enough to soothe his massive ego. But enough about these disasters. What else happened this week that we should feel sick to our stomachs about?
In case you were wondering if Trump’s loathing of the press has trickled down to the local level, wonder no more. Remember Ben Jacobs, the Guardian reporter bodyslammed by then candidate, now Congressman Greg Gianforte? This week, a Montana Republican official said she would have shot Jacobs for what he did. What he did, of course, was ask Gianforte a question, which is generally not a thing one is supposed to get shot for.
Betsy DeVos continues to slash and burn her way through the Department of Education, this week throwing out 72 different regulations relating to special education services. The party line on this is that these regulations were duplicative, but then remember that at her confirmation hearing, she didn’t even seem to understand how federal special education law worked.
One of the more astonishing things this week came from Georgia state representative Betty Price. She’s the wife of Tom Price, who you might remember just resigned from being Trump’s secretary of Health and Human services because he really really loved spending taxpayer money flying around on charter planes. This week, Betty Price suggested that it would be great if we could just quarantine HIV patients. Worse, she went on to explain that “in the past, they died more readily, and at that point, they’re not posing a risk.” Yes, that is an elected official, in 2017, saying that it was better when HIV-positive people died more quickly.
Perhaps the hardest thing to watch this week was the Jane Doe abortion case. Doe is an undocumented teenager who is entitled to an abortion, but the government keeps blocking it. She’s 15 weeks pregnant, and when she reaches 20 weeks, she can’t have an abortion under Texas law. The government recently went to court to delay her access, and the court ruled last week that she can’t get an abortion until she finds a sponsor that can take custody of her and take her to have the procedure. It’s all part of the gross worldview of Trump’s director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who personally intervenes to try to stop unaccompanied minor teenagers from getting abortions. Why? Besides the fact that he’s your standard anti-choice monster, it’s because he thinks of himself as a “foster parent” to undocumented teens and that he, not them will make choices that he thinks are best for them. This is so disgustingly paternalistic.
Also in Texas news: do you live in Texas–Dickinson, Texas, to be precise? Do you want to get some municipal grant money to help you rebuild your home after Hurricane Harvey tore through your town? Well, you will have to pledge to not boycott Israel, which is a totally normal thing to attach to a city grant application.
Meanwhile, the swamp keeps getting so drained. This week Trump signed off on an ethics waiver for Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff, Nick Ayers. The waiver allows Ayers to meet with the political organizations he worked for previously, which is a thing you are not actually supposed to be able to do because federal law says you have to recuse yourself from that for a year. The president, however, can waive that requirement. And this is not the first time he’s done so—not by a long shot. This administration is stuffed to the gills with former lobbyists who now work with and regulate the very agencies they used to lobby.
Nowhere is this tendency more obvious than at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA continues to be given over to the interests of corporations, rather than people–specifically, corporations and industries that are massive polluters. Nancy Beck, a former executive of the chemical industry’s main trade association is now a deputy at the EPA. One of her first moves was to rewrite a rule about PFOA, a water contaminant linked to birth defects and kidney cancer, among other things. Of course, her rule rewrite makes it harder to regulate PFOA. This isn’t the only regulation rollback that has proved to be super industry-friendly, but this week, when the press had the audacity to ask the EPA for a comment on this, their chief spokesperson refused, saying that the New York Times would “never write a fair piece” because they are fixated on “writing elitist clickbait.” Good to see that the “fake news” mentality has champions at all levels of the administration.
Trump’s loose—actually nonexistent, really—view of ethics is also why we see him personally interviewing United States Attorney for the state of New York candidates. Remember that the New York Southern District office has jurisdiction over the Trump corporation, since it is headquartered there. So Trump is interviewing the people that would oversee whether his businesses are behaving legally. This might seem like a bit of inside baseball, but it is critical to point out that Barack Obama literally never met with a single United States Attorney candidate.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions went in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to talk about Russian interference in U.S. elections, among other things. It became clear at the hearing that Sessions doesn’t actually care a bit about whether Russia interferes in future elections. Under questioning from Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, he admitted the DOJ has taken no real steps to fight future Russian meddling, focusing instead on “commercial” interference—the theft of trade secrets and the like. Definitely the real issue facing America right now.
It’s getting harder and harder to keep track of all the bad things that happen next week, but tune in next week when we’ll try again.
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