A photo of Donald Trump holding a phone. There are Twitter birds added to this image

Gage Skidmore/CC 2.0


Gage Skidmore/CC 2.0

While He Was Tweeting: Indictment Watch Edition, Week 41

With Friday's news of pending indictments, No. 45 naturally resonded with a nearly hysterical tweetstorm. Meanwhile, the White House continued to unravel policies. Here’s what you missed.

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It’s pretty tough to concentrate on anything while we’re all waiting for tomorrow to see which Trump crony is going to be the first to get indicted. Paul Manafort? Michael Flynn? Jared? Wouldn’t it be great if it was Jared? Or what if it was Don Jr?? We can only hope.

When the news dropped Friday that indictments were forthcoming, one-time Trump adviser and longtime Trump friend Roger Stone Jr. went off the rails, tweet-screeching abuse at CNN anchors for having the gall to break the news that indictments would be coming down. Twitter, showing some sort of spine, actually perma-banned him for it.

Trump, regrettably, is still on Twitter, which meant he sprang into action pretty much the second he realized that someone in his orbit is going to be facing criminal charges. He’s doing that by returning to the tactic that has served him so well in the past: blaming Hillary Clinton. He approvingly cited both the New York Post and, of course, Fox, to explain how Hillary is actually the one who colluded with Russia, of course. (Never mind the fact that such a theory requires you to believe that Hillary engaged in massive long-term collaboration with Russia in order to…lose the election?) House news organ Fox News has also joined in, calling for special prosecutor Robert Mueller to be fired and for Hillary to be jailed.

Trump also decided he’d pan Michael Moore’s Broadway show and brag about releasing the JFK assassination files “long ahead of schedule.” Those files have literally been scheduled for an October 26, 2017 release since 25 years ago, so there’s no metric by which Trump getting them out the door this weekend was ahead of schedule, much less “long ahead.”

OK, so what else happened this week that we should be scared witless about? So very much.

Trump has installed a bunch of people in government agencies without actually running them through the Senate for confirmation as required. The Vacancies Reform Act prohibits presidents from stacking agencies with unconfirmed nominees, but Trump’s got his people in the EPA. the Office of Management and Budget, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and more. It’s all part of this administration’s overall refusal to follow any rules.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is a legit monster, is probably going to toss an Obama-era regulation that fully paid off government student loans for people defrauded by for-profit colleges. Those colleges preyed upon poor students by enticing them with completely made up job numbers, but now DeVos is looking at providing only partial repayment assistance. Well, when her boss had to pay $25 million to settle claims about his own fraudulent Trump “University” it isn’t surprising DeVos also sees nothing wrong with for-profit colleges fleecing their own students.

ICE continues to be the closest thing to the embodiment of pure evil we have right now. They’ve massively stepped up their detentions (including a particularly awful detention of a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy en route to emergency gallbladder surgery), so much so that they are looking to add five more detention centers. ICE—and the Trump administration generally—aren’t hesitant to use private prisons, which are also pure evil and literally profit from human suffering. The private prison industry knows a good thing when it sees it, and is moving to make sure Trump knows how much they love him back by moving their annual conference to one of Trump’s golf clubs.

EPA head Scott Pruitt continues to be evil, but he’s also getting weirder and weirder. On the evil—and just plain dumb—side, he just said that “[t]rue environmentalism, from my perspective, is using natural resources that God has blessed us with.”  This is a remarkably stupid view that is shared by a specific type of evangelical, many of whom believe that because God made the earth, He (you know they think of their god as male) made the planet “self-correcting” and therefore we can’t possibly wreck the environment. On the weird side, Pruitt is demanding 12 more private security agents to guard him against god knows what. It’s going to cost the EPA another $2 million per year, but that’s chump change to an administration this grifty.

Speaking of grifty…remember how the Trump Organization loudly proclaimed there would be no new foreign deals while he was president? Yeah, about that. Donnie Jr. is just about to launch two real estate deals in India, which last we checked was indeed a foreign country. The excuse here is that since the deal was negotiated prior to Trump becoming president, it isn’t really a new deal.

The award for highest-profile—and most shameless—bit of grift this week has to go to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and a two-person electric company from Zinke’s hometown, Whitefish Energy. This tiny company somehow won a $300 million no-bid contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s massively damaged electrical grid. Zinke is furious that anyone would suggest he had anything to do with the contract going to Whitefish, urging us all to ignore the fact that he’s helped them win contracts before, his kid worked for Whitefish for a summer, and one of Whitefish’s investors was a big Trump donor. When people like the mayor of San Juan raised questions about how the deal got done, Whitefish threatened to just stop work and leave Puerto Rico, which is a totally normal thing for a government contractor to do. Also, though the contract represents that FEMA approved it, FEMA says they didn’t. The contract also says that no government entity can review Whitefish’s profits or costs and that Puerto Rico has to waive any claims against the company for delays in completing the work. See? Totally normal.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to display a shocking disregard for the basic concept of separation of powers, taking aim at judges who dare to rule against Trump. He’s convinced that any judge that prevents Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban from taking effect is playing politics instead of ruling as the law dictates. Given that Sessions and his boss only understand politics as brute force, rather than as a way to advance progress and justice, it isn’t surprising he’d attribute that tendency to others.

Trump’s voter fraud commission continues to be a massive joke. Some of the Democrats that were brave or stupid enough to agree to be on the commission aren’t even receiving correspondence or information about future meetings. We might be on the verge of finding out more about the shadowy commission’s workings, however, as the Government Accountability Office has agreed to investigate the commission.

The overall anti-climate-change stance of the Trump administration has left the National Weather Service severely underfunded and understaffed. The entire nation—the world, really—relies upon the NWS for accurate storm predictions and other vital information. But Trump’s zeal to eviscerate climate-related funding also means that funding for things like weather satellites will see cuts, and that is going to drastically decrease the power of the NWS to predict weather-related catastrophes. Great. Trump also named a new ambassador to Canada, one who says that she believes “both sides” of climate science. Of course she thinks this way, given that she’s married to a billionaire coal company owner.

The tiniest bright spot of this week is that Jane Doe, an undocumented teen who fought for weeks to exercise her legal right to get an abortion but was blocked by the federal government was finally able to obtain one. Both Jeff Sessions and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton whined about it because of course they did.

Until next week, when Trump’s cronies will keep wrecking the environment, the judicial system, public education, and more…but at least we’ll have an indictment or two to keep us warm at night.


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