Distractor-In-Chief

While He Was Tweeting: The Glass White House Edition, Week 44


Trump and GOP hypocrisy sunk to new depths this week. While we were grappling with the news about Al Franken, the administration continued to push their craven policies. Here's what you missed.




What a dumb and terrible week. We had to grapple with the news that Al Franken—a senator we genuinely loved and believed in—forcibly kissed fellow USO performer Leeann Tweeden and then had a photograph taken of himself pretending to grope her breasts while she slept. Of course, this meant that Donald Trump, a man who completely ignores his long history of outright sexual predation and of treating women poorly, took to Twitter to assert, without evidence (of course!), that there were probably additional pictures of Franken that were worse. Trump hasn’t seen fit to talk about Roy Moore, the disgraced ex-judge from Alabama running for Senate, even though there are a number of credible accusers who have come forward to say that Moore did everything from pursuing them to assault them when they were teenagers.

Trump also used Twitter to go after Hillary Clinton again this week, implying that she can’t get over her loss and just move on. There’s only one of you that isn’t moving on, Donald, and it isn’t Hillary. He also accused the Democrats of obstructing the horrible tax bill in the House. More on that tax bill later, but let’s take a moment to point out here that the Democrats are doing their jobs by working against that horror show. He also attacked CNN, saying he was forced to watch them while in the Philippines and that they were still fake news. Does anyone believe anyone can force Trump to watch something he doesn’t want to watch? Does anyone believe that the Philippines, currently ruled by a man who literally brags about killing people, both directly and indirectly, wasn’t able to rustle up some Fox News for his like-minded pal, Trump?

It must be one of those weeks where Dear Leader isn’t getting enough praise because he had to do that pathetic thing where he highlights some random Twitter person that really loves him. More pathetic, he bragged about his 46% approval rate in the most recent Rasmussen poll. Imagine thinking that coming in below 50% is some sort of achievement to be highlighted.

Enough about Trump stroking his massive ego. What else happened this week?

Roy Moore happened all week, of course, and it is just getting worse and worse as more women come forward. Apparently, it was no secret that Moore pursued teenage girls. But that’s OK, say Alabama evangelicals, who have abandoned all pretense of morality. Alabama’s governor, Republican Kay Ivey, said this week that although she has no reason to disbelieve Moore’s accusers, she’ll pull the lever for him anyway because it is important to have a Republican in the Senate. We used to say that people like this didn’t believe women when they spoke out about their sexual assaults. Now, apparently, people like this do believe women. They just don’t care.

There was splashy news that Trump was finally going to start paying his own legal bills in the Russian probe. However, you, the taxpayer, still get to pay for the DOJ to defend Trump in four lawsuits related to his private companies profiting while he’s president, a thing that’s forbidden by the emoluments clause of the Constitution. What a time to be alive.

You’ll recall that Trump has been shopping for a new Health and Human Services Secretary ever since the last one, Tom Price, had to retire over a predilection for charging taxpayers for his charter jet travel. This week, Trump tapped Alex Azar to be the new HHS Secretary, bragging that Azar will help lower drug prices. Given that Azar is a Big Pharma guy that used to run Eli Lilly and tripled the cost of insulin while he was there, that doesn’t seem at all likely.

Price may have been tossed over travel issues, but somehow Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke keeps hanging on even though he’s arguably way worse. His own agency can’t even investigate Zinke’s travel because he fails to keep complete records of that travel, so much so that Interior’s lawyers can’t sort out when Zinke is traveling for a personal, political, or official purpose. He also has an inordinate fondness for using military and charter jets. Nothing says “drain the swamp” like everyone in your administration using the government like their own personal piggy bank.

Over at the Department of Agriculture, the swamp is definitely not drained. Rebeckah Adcock is a high-level official at USDA, and her main qualification seems to be that she used to be employed by a trade group for a pesticide industry trade group. Her ethics agreement says she can’t meet with former industry cronies and stay away from anything she lobbied the government on when she was at the trade group. But of course she’s still meeting with tons of industry people, all of whom want to deregulate pesticide use.

The House passed their version of the tax bill this week, and it’s painful to look at because it guts low income and middle-class people so much. Corporations and the rich (including Trump) will see huge tax breaks, of course. Not-rich people might see tax cuts of a few hundred bucks. Maybe. It also features a number of completely mean-spirited cuts, like killing the grad school tuition tax waiver. That waiver is what lets lower- and middle-class students attend grad school because it means grad school tuition is covered while you earn a modest stipend from teaching. Right now, you’re only taxed on the stipend, but under the House plan, you’d be taxed for the whole package. This means you’d make around $25,000, but be taxed like you earn $70,000. It would functionally put grad school out of reach for most Americans, which the House likely sees as a feature, not a bug. The deduction for medical expenses is out as well, which means massive additional taxes if you have a major illness or need long-term care. Neither of those rollbacks is in the Senate version of the bill, so now we all have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that the Senate’s slightly less monstrous version of the tax bill prevails.

The conservative court-packing scheme continues apace, which is arguably going to be the worst fallout from the election of Trump. These judges are appointed for life, and Trump is making sure to choose young idealogues for the slots, which means that they could sit on the federal bench for 40+ years and radically reshape the courts. In fact, the chair of the conservative Federalist Society, which is basically the entity that provides Trump with his list of judicial nominees, has advocated massively increasing the size of the federal court system so that Trump could nominate enough judges to ensure a conservative majority in all federal circuits.

If this doesn’t frighten you enough, take a look at one of the nominees Trump is already trying to ram through the confirmation process. Meet Brett Talley, for example. He’s 36 years old. He’s never tried a case. The American Bar Association unanimously rated him not qualified to serve as a federal judge. He forgot to mention he was married to the chief of staff for Trump’s White House counsel. In a blog post, he praised the KKK. He loves guns, calls Hillary Clinton “Hillary Rotten Clinton,” and he used to be a ghost hunter. See? Totally qualified.

In continuing colluding-with-Russia news, we learned this week that Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, slid into Donald Trump Jr,’s DMs during the election. Although the correspondence was largely Assange begging for things, including an ambassadorship, Junior did respond on occasion and even emailed other senior campaign officials telling them about the Wikileaks contact. Jared Kushner, who is apparently the most forgetful man in Washington, also forgot to mention to the special counsel that he got emails about Wikileaks and Russian overtures and dinner invites and sent them on to other campaign officials. So weird that everyone in the Trump campaign has managed to forget talking to Russians on a regular basis.

The only good news this week was a hilarious self-own by Fox News’ Sean Hannity and his doofus-y conservative followers. News hit that Keurig, the pod coffee maker, pulled ads from Hannity’s show after Hannity basically praised Roy Moore. Conservatives went berserk and did things like film themselves destroying throwing their Keurig machines off a balcony, thinking this would somehow make liberals mad instead of us finding it hilarious. Then Keurig’s CEO issued a mushy semi-apology for pulling the ads, which led to those people that had smashed their Keurigs being sad. Now Hannity is giving away hundreds of Keurigs to people dumb enough to have murdered their own property. Everyone in this story deserves each other.

Until next week, when we might see conservatives smashing their Volvos, because they pulled their ads from Hannity too. Here’s hoping.

 

 

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