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In a week where Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and the Senate forced through their tax scam, Trump’s twitter was unhinged. Here’s the other news you may have missed.
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The passage of the Senate tax bill, which is arguably worse than when it was first proposed, made for a week so glum that even Michael Flynn’s plea deal couldn’t quite rouse us from a crushing feeling of futility. That said, an important note: passage of the Senate tax bill and the House tax bill is just that: passage of separate bills. They still have to form a conference committee, reconcile the difference between the two bills, have both chambers pass the new bill, and get it to Trump. That means you should still keep calling your representatives and senators because the fight over this isn’t over.
So what was Trump doing this week? He was outdoing himself, really. Earlier in the week, he retweeted a series of repugnant anti-Muslim videos first posted by Jayda Fransen, head of Britain First, which is England’s vicious anti-Muslim and nationalist party. Fransen was convicted last year of religiously aggravated harassment of a woman in a hijab. So, basically, he’s like a British Trump, albeit one with a record.
Trump also did some pro forma tweeting this week, praising Jesus, proclaiming World AIDS Day, and marking the anniversary of the date Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Keep Rosa Parks name out your month, Trump.
Let’s get down to what really had Trump a-tweeting this week: Flynn’s plea deal, which has sent Trump into a frenzy of, you guessed it, blaming Hillary Clinton. Well, first he had to tweet out a very ill-advised tweet where he explained that he had to fire Mike Flynn because Flynn liked to Vice President Pence and the FBI. Here’s the problem with that spin: if that’s true, then Trump’s later request to drop the investigation into Flynn could be evidence of Trump obstructing justice. Nice job, Donald.
Perhaps realizing that he said too much, Trump immediately pivoted to reminding his base, which is equal parts rabid and stupid, that the real criminal here is Hillary. He complained about Flynn getting fired while Hillary walks free, rehashed some Fox News nonsense about how the FBI agent that led the probe into Hillary’s emails was a secret Hillary lover, and wondered why the DOJ hasn’t gone after Hillary for her emails. It’s like the 2016 election all over again, except that now we have the horror show of Trump as the actual, rather than possible, president to make everything much, much worse.
The awfulness of the week wasn’t limited to Trump, of course. What else was there that was terrifying and saddening us all week?
Your taxpayer dollars paid out a cool $150,000 to an aide of South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy, who really, really has it out for Hillary Clinton and spearheaded the Benghazi panel. An aide to Gowdy alleged he was fired because he didn’t want to direct all his efforts to investigate Hillary, and the Gowdy and the Benghazi panel had to cough up that $150K to settle those allegations. Aren’t you glad this is what you pay taxes for?
Speaking of taxes, there are a million things to say about how bad that Senate tax bill was, but let’s just leave it at this: Orrin Hatch, who is busy breaking his arm by patting himself on the back vigorously for passing a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich, simultaneously explained that we just don’t have enough money to cover CHIP, which is much-needed insurance for poor kids.
After praising the “terrific job” CHIP has done for families who need help, he immediately added, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves – won’t lift a finger – and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Trump’s White House and the CIA are kicking around the great and totally rational idea of letting a private company run covert actions and conduct propaganda missions. Great plan! It isn’t as if using private contractors to conduct military operations ever went wrong, so this should work out just fine too. Oh, wait.
Everything is deeply confusing and chaotic over at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a legitimately great creation of the Obama era that seeks to make sure that actual people, rather than, say, banks, are protected from harm. Trump, of course, is much more worried about the happiness of big banks, so when the director of the CFPB, Richard Cordray, stepped down, Trump named his Office of Management and Budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to run the Bureau. Mulvaney is, of course, a perfect pick for the job in the Trump era, because he hates the CFPB. One small problem: Cordray named a successor, Leandra English, to run the Bureau pursuant to the Federal Vacancies Act. English sued to block Mulvaney from being named, but lost that lawsuit. Now she’s planning to file a preliminary injunction against Mulvaney so she can lead the agency. Nothing like throwing an entire agency into disarray, Mulvaney.
Even though the world is basically beginning to burn (see, for example, North Korea’s latest missile test), Rex Tillerson has decided that completely gutting the State Department still makes sense. His reason? The world is magically going to get more peaceful because Trump and company will resolve a bunch of conflicts. Literally, no one believes this—not even Tillerson.
You’ll recall how somehow an inexperienced company from Secretary of the Interior Ryan ZInke’s hometown was awarded a multi-million dollar contract to repair Puerto Rico’s electrical grid? And FEMA said it was shocked—shocked!—to learn of it? Apparently FEMA isn’t really keeping an eye on the contracts it awards either. They threw over $30 million to Bronze Star, a company that was only formed in August and lists a personal residence as its business address, to provide tarps for Puerto Rico. Of course this basically fake company had never won a government contract before and never delivered anything to Puerto Rico. The government canceled the contract, but both FEMA and Bronze Star are basically off the hook and people in Puerto Rico still don’t even have the minimal shelter of tarps.
The persistent drumbeat of powerful men going down for sexual abuse and harassment continues, which engenders both a feeling of relief—these men should be wiped from their high-profile careers—and despair, because it is hard for women, and survivors in particular, to keep being confronted with this pain. This week, it was NBC’s Matt Lauer and Minnesota Public Radio’s Garrison Keillor. Lauer offered a half-assed apology, but Keillor couldn’t even muster that. Instead, he wrote a really creepy op-ed in defense of Al Franken’s actions, but failed to tell the Washington Post that he already knew he was under investigation for sexual harassment allegations of his own. He also tried to spin the allegations against him as a mere inadvertent touch of a woman’s back. Listen. Keillor didn’t just build an empire with A Prairie Home Companion. He basically helped build Minnesota Public Radio into an empire as well. There’s just no way they’d cut all ties with him and nuke distribution of APHC if these allegations weren’t both serious and well-documented.
Remember James Allsup? He was one of the little white power creeps that went to Charlottesville and marched with a literal torch. Apparently, that was embarrassing enough, at the time, for his College Republicans chapter to ask him to step down, but just a few months later, they re-elected him. That isn’t a product of them having short memories. It’s a product of them having brutally racist views and feeling Allsup represents those perfectly.
As we hurtle headlong into the holiday season, don’t forget the real joy (besides Flynn going down, of course) that kicked it off: the fact that nearly no one showed up to watch the White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Truly, that is a thing to be treasured.
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