Browsing the archives for the Trump Maladministration category.

Believe It, or Not

Trump Maladministration

If there were any clearer indication that we’ve entered the Twilight Zone, read Ruth Marcus. Yes, that Ruth Marcus. Yesterday she wrote,

That view of cancer — not as a metastatic killer but as a dangerous problem requiring vigilant control — may be the best way of understanding, and dealing with, the Trump administration. In the alarming month since he took office, it has become clear, if it were not already, that President Trump is dishonest, unprepared and undisciplined. His presidency poses an enormous risk to the country — to its safety, standing in the world and relations with allies, just for a start.

Of course, Marcus is still Marcus — a professional concern troll who works for the Washington Post. She doesn’t think the situation is grim enough to consider removing the so-called president from office. He can be managed, she believes. Still, for Marcus, the paragraph above is quite a leap.

In another sign that reality ain’t what it used to be, the bleeping Voice of America is running a column comparing the so-called current president of the United States to Stalin. Imagine going back to the 1950s and explaining that to your younger self, or your parents, whichever applies.

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Trump Is the Boss From Hell

Trump Maladministration

Last month Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare said the Trump maladministration is “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” Brilliant, and on the money, I think.

A lot of people have analyzed the actions of the so-called president looking for a grand plan behind the lies, schemes and general floundering around. But IMO the White House crew are more maladroit than Machiavellian. (See Sincerely, Niccolo Machiavelli: An open letter to Donald Trump, from the guy who wrote the book on power moves.) There may be a plan in there somewhere, but they’re too driven by their psychological issues, and too lost in their delusions, to make it work.

See also “Trump’s White House Is Falling Apart” by Jonathan Bernstein.

Nor is there any particular reason to expect things to get better, at least not without massive outside interference. And not just because the Russia scandal is hardly over just because Flynn is gone. The factionalized, inept White House remains just as dysfunctional as ever. Executive branch nominations have slowed to a crawl, with just one submitted since Feb. 1 — balanced by the withdrawal of the former selection for secretary of the army, Vincent Viola. They can’t find anyone willing to handle communications. Did you know they still don’t appear to have formally submitted the nomination of Sonny Perdue, the choice for agriculture secretary, to the Senate? Did they just forget? Who knows?

Then there’s an increasing obsession with leaks — Trump tweeted about it this morning. That’s a classic White House mistake. Things go wrong, and it triggers people (in the permanent bureaucracy, or from one or another faction within the administration) to talk to the press. A good president will use these leaks as sources of information — who is upset, and why? A poor president will circle the wagons, trying to keep knowledge of what’s happening within the administration within a tighter and tighter circle, which only serves to make those who legitimately are supposed to be part of the policy-making process even more upset, and the policy made without proper inputs even less likely to succeed. Guess which one Trump is choosing? Hey, at least on this he’s making a normal presidenting mistake, albeit one which helped cost Richard Nixon his presidency.

The worst of it, perhaps, is that hardly anything that has happened since Nov. 9 has been truly surprising. Look at the White House. The president of the United States has no government experience and demonstrated during the campaign only a very limited understanding of the U.S. government and public policy. The top players within the White House — Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — also have no government experience at all. Why should anyone expect that to work?

The Republican Party and conservative media will do their best keeping the Trumpettes propped up for a while. And genuinely dysfunctional organizations can stay in business for a surprisingly long time under some circumstances. I have seen this myself.

Trump actually could have a successful administration if he were surrounded by competent people, and if he allowed those competent people to do their jobs. I’ve seen that, too.

Many years ago I worked as an editor for a small book publisher being run by the founder’s son, and Son was something of a dweeb. He was a nice guy, actually, but not the sharpest tack in the box. Any project he got personally involved with was pretty much screwed. But for the most part (there were a few gawdawful exceptions) the managers and staff were competent people who effeciently turned out salable products. Over time, Son figured out that it was okay if he just stayed out of things and enjoyed his tastefully decorated office. He trusted his people to do their jobs. Many years after I left it, the little company was bought out by a bigger company for a nice sum, and it’s still around.

On the other hand, some years after that I went to work for another small publisher in New Jersey as their production manager. This is something I’d always wanted to do. By then I’d worked as a production manager — one of many — for departments within big corporations, but I thought it would be cool to run the whole show in a small company so that I could set up all the prodedures and do things My Way. I’d had tons of experience by then and knew my stuff, you see.

However, I found myself reporting to a vice president who had no experience in publishing whatsoever. The company specialized in books for lawyers, and this guy was a lawyer who was an old buddy of the owners. And this guy wouldn’t let me do my job. He micromanaged me to death and reversed my decisions. He wouldn’t allow me to follow sensible, cost-effective procedures, mostly because he didn’t understand them. I despaired that he would ever get out of my way long enough to allow any books to be printed and bound, so I left after fewer than six months and took another job with a big corporation.

The little legal book company went belly up at some point; at least, it doesn’t seem to exist any more. I see that their name and logo have been taken over by some law firm headhunters in California.

And then three years after I left the law book ccompany the corporation laid off my division, and after some thrashing around I ended up working for another small company as production manager. This was for the Dragon Lady, an honest-to-gosh sociopath. She had a lot of Trump characteristics, including the lying, the temper, the blatant cheating of vendors and clients, and the narcissism. (I was never in her apartment, but those who were said it was decorated by nude paintings of Herself.)

The Dragon Lady also was a micromanager. She didn’t trust any of us to be able to do anything without her watching. I knew I’d picked the wrong job when she discovered I’d met with one of the vendors to go over bid specifications while she was out of the office, and she hauled me into her office and screamed herself purple for 20 minutes. I’d been meeting with vendors for years and considered it part of the normal functions of a production manager, but the Dragon Lady considered any outside communication without her direct supervision to be something underhanded; to her, it was going behind her back.

And I was stuck in that job for a year and a half before I could find another and bail out. My year and a half was a record, I understand; some of her previous managers had left after a few days. I’d like to be able to say that her business went belly up, but I understand she sold it at a profit.

The moral to all this is that the worst boss, in my experience, is one who doesn’t trust other people to do their jobs; he has to be in complete control, even if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And that’s usually because untrustworthy people are very distrustful. And when you put such people in charge, expect dysfunction.

I’m saying that if Trump were surrounded by old Washington hands with lots of experience, people who knew how to work the bureaucracy and interact with Congress, he probably could be as outrageous as he wanted to be and still have a successful administration. But he’s surrounded by toadies and True Believer ideologues.

The heart, blood and bones of a big, sprawling bureaucracy are made up of well-internalized procedure and deep institutional memory. Without those, everything falls apart. The people at the head can come and go, and they can change policy and steer the whole shebang into new directions. But if they are disconnected from the levels of bureaucracy below them, or if those levels are gutted out, the beast ain’t goin’ nowhere.

And everything that’s going on tells me the Trumpettes have no appreciation of the beast they are supposed to be heading.

CNN reported yesterday,

The administration of President Donald Trump remains largely unfilled four weeks into his presidency, with just 34 of nearly 700 key Senate-confirmed positions even having a candidate announced.

According to data from the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service hosted by The Washington Post, Trump has 14 officials confirmed by the Senate and 20 others are awaiting a vote, out of 696 top leadership positions in the administration.

Not a good sign. And they’re having trouble finding a replacement for Michael Flynn. For example,

Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward turned down President Donald Trump’s offer to be national security adviser Thursday, depriving the administration of a top candidate for a critical foreign policy post days after Trump fired Michael Flynn. …

… A friend of Harward’s said he was reluctant to take the job because the White House seems so chaotic. Harward called the offer a “s*** sandwich,” the friend said.
A Republican official told CNN that Harward made it a condition of taking the job that he could form his own team. In the end, he didn’t feel that was the case.
And a senior Republican familiar with the process added that “a question of clarity regarding the lines of authority” was central in Harward’s decision.

It’s also said that Harward bailed after seeing Trump’s unhinged press conference this week.

It turns out the cabinet heads are not being allowed to choose their own staffs, even though the White House is struggling to hire staff themselves. I understand a lot of Obama Administration holdovers still are keeping the lights turned on in the White House, so to speak. Some appointees are being un-appointed after back ground checks found they had written something critical about Trump. Only toadies need apply.

And stuff like this happens:

President Donald Trump this week abruptly dropped the nation’s commitment to a two-state solution for Middle East peace — without reviewing the specifics of his new strategy with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

State Department officials and Tillerson’s top aides learned about the president’s comments in real time, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. Tillerson himself was in the air when Trump announced the change in the longstanding U.S. position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the White House, there was little thought about notifying the nation’s top diplomat because, as one senior staffer put it, “everyone knows Jared [Kushner] is running point on the Israel stuff.”

Jared Kushner being the 30-something trust fund brat who bought the once-respected New York Observer and turned it into a vapid tabloid-shopper before killing the print edition completely. He’s in charge of Israel stuff, not the State Department.

If Tillerson has any self-respect, he’ll resign before the year is out.

Update: See Trump, an Outsider Demanding Loyalty, Struggles to Fill Top Posts

It is not just the State Department that has no deputy secretary, much less Trump-appointed under secretaries or assistant secretaries. Neither do the Treasury Department, the Education Department or any of the other cabinet departments. Only three of the 15 have even named a nominee for deputy secretary. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a deputy only because he kept the one left over from President Barack Obama’s administration.

That does not even begin to cover the rest of the more than 4,000 appointments that a president typically makes. In some cases, the Trump administration is even going in reverse. A senior political appointee at the housing department, who had already started the job, was fired this past week and marched out of the building when someone discovered his previous statements critical of Mr. Trump. The State Department laid off six top career officials in recent days, apparently out of questions about their loyalty to Mr. Trump.

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How Dear Leader Might Be Deposed

Trump Maladministration

I don’t know how significant this is, but Even David Brooks doesn’t think the Trump Maladministration is sustainable.

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

Of course, Brooks is a rare old-school wingnut who insists that wingnuttery maintain the conventions of civility under the auspicses of Harvard grads. Plebian guns & gawd wingnuttery isn’t really his milieu.

The good news for today is that in the Gallup daily tracking approval/disapproval poll, the so-called president has finally dipped below the 40 percent mark. Today he’s at 38 percent approve/56 percent disapprove. Philip Bump points out that right now Trump’s approval numbers match Barack Obama’s all-time low.

Philip Bump also rights that Trump’s biggest threat is likely to come from moderate Republicans.

Like any president, Trump has a large base of people who will always like him, and a large base of people who will always hate him. In Trump’s case, the latter group may be larger than normal. But neither of these is the group that will decide his fate.

Trump’s presidency lies in the hands of the Trump-curious: the approximately 15% of Americans who dislike him but tell pollsters they think he might do a good job. A lot of these are people who voted for Trump despite having an unfavorable view of him.

With these voters on his side, Trump can wield a fearsome coalition that would help him retain Congress in two years and persuade Republicans and Democrats in Congress to bend to his agenda in the meantime. Without them, he is unpopular and ridiculous.

The “Trump-curious” were discussed by Josh Barro at Business Insider.

These polls show that a surprisingly large group of people — perhaps 15% of registered American voters — disapprove of Trump but are open to the idea that he will be a good president.

This isn’t the largest slice of the electorate. Both Trump superfans and Trump loathers are larger groups than the Trump-curious.

But the median voter is Trump-curious. The next presidential election — and the midterm election to come in 2018, as well the actions of legislators who are driven by perceptions of whether Trump and his agenda are popular — will be determined by how Trump-curious voters feel Trump is doing.

This past election was also decided by the Trump-curious: Trump won overwhelmingly among the substantial number of voters who viewed both him and Hillary Clinton negatively.

I would guess these are not people who pay much attention to politics news. Anyway, Barro says, to keep these voters on his side, Trump will actually have to accomplish things. This voter demographic seems willing to overlook Trump’s many character and psychological flaws, but if he is seen as ineffectual, he’s toast.

To me, this says it’s up to Congress. Trump is not going to change. Never in human history has a man been in so over his head while remaining utterly oblivious to it.

The Republican Party is not happy. And Republicans in Congress are losing the big  mo. They’re still not sure where to go with health care, for example. They’re stalled on a “replacement,” and I take it they’re getting no help whatsoever with the White House. House Republicans also are at war with each other over a tax bill, I understand.

Paul Ryan showed up to Senate Republicans’ weekly lunch on Tuesday hoping to salvage a controversial pillar of his tax reform plan that would change how imports and exports are taxed. “Keep your powder dry,” the House speaker pleaded.

The next day, Sen. Tom Cotton took to the Senate floor to slam Ryan’s so-called border adjustment tax, saying “some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.”

It’s going to be a miracle if anything resembling a viable Obamacare replacement or tax bill emerges in the next six months. Meanwhile, the maladministration is going to remain bogged down in investigations over the Russian connection and whatever stupid thing emerges from Dear Leader’s mouth every day.

Congressional Republicans need an actual Republican president to forward their agenda. Trump is not that person. However, Mike Pence would do nicely.

So, if the Russian investigations don’t kill the maladministration, the GOP might. Once they get Gorsuch confirmed for SCOTUS — I’m sure Republicans are over the moon for Gorsuch —  I think the move to remove the so-called president will take shape.

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All in the Trump Family

Trump Maladministration

Sidney Blumenthal has a long article at London Review of Books about the Trump family that’s worth reading. Among other things, there are details I hadn’t heard about Trump’s odious and dysfunctional relations and about his extensive ties to the mob and Roy Cohn. I just want to zero in on this part for now —

Trump’s business has always operated organisationally like a prototypical Mafia, with a tight circle of family, friends and flunkies, bearing little resemblance to a modern corporation. As Masha Gessen put it in the New York Review of Books, borrowing from the Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar, the ‘post-communist mafia state’ is ‘run like a family by a patriarch who distributes money, power and favours’. Usually, the ‘family’ is ‘built on loyalty, not blood relations, but Trump is bringing his literal family into the White House. By inviting a few hand-picked people into the areas that interest him personally, he may be creating a mafia state within a state.’

Here is the Masha Gessen piece, btw, and I may have more to say about it later. But it notes that while Michael Flynn was heading the Defense Intelligence Agency, a parallel power structure developed to keep the agency functioning. Government agencies don’t work like the Mafia.

The Guardian is reporting that Secretary of State Tillerson already is out of the loop. He’s not part of the Family.

Rex Tillerson began his first foreign outing as US secretary of state on Thursday, meeting counterparts from G20 countries in Bonn, but he has left behind in Washington a department that is severely weakened and cut out of key policy decisions.

Since starting the job two weeks ago, Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil executive, has soothed nerves at the state department by consulting widely with regional and country experts, but it has been hard to disguise the gap between the department headquarters at Washington’s Foggy Bottom and the White House where far-reaching foreign policy decisions are being made.

Senior state department officials who would normally be called to the White House for their views on key policy issues, are not being asked their opinion. They have resorted to asking foreign diplomats, who now have better access to President Trump’s immediate circle of advisers, what new decisions are imminent.

This article is worth reading also. Basically Bannon and Kushner are making foreign policy decisions and not even bothering to inform State of what’s going on, never mind consult with State. They must view the State Department as some kind of ceremonial thing.

Tillerson had previously assured Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, that he would have a free hand in choosing staff. He has brought a handful of personal aides with him but many of the state department senior staff either resigned or were summarily dismissed days before Tillerson arrived in the building, and there is no list of nominees to replace them. Given the time vetting and congressional confirmation takes, Tillerson is now facing many months of working with a severely depleted team of senior staff.

One suspects Tillerson is already regretting he left Exxon. Remember, the entire senior administrative team at the State Department resigned before Tillerson took over as Secretary. My understanding is that those positions, and similar positions at other agencies, are being left unfilled, because the so-called president and his team can’t be bothered to fill them. (Not that Tillerson’s choices were that great; he wanted to hire Elliot Abrams.)

Leaving key positions unfilled is one way of kneecapping the agencies and keeping them from functioning. They are less likely to form a parallel power structure to challenge the White House.  Whether that’s the intention or just the result of family dysfunction I cannot say.

Update: Inside Donald Trump’s White House Chaos

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Can This Administration Function at All?

Trump Maladministration

Michael Gerson functions as a right-wing tool most of the time, but in this column I think he exhibits actual insight. It’s worth reading.

For example:

This seems to be the dynamic unfolding on the weekend political talk shows. These have traditionally been venues for an administration to communicate with media and political elites (whose religion dedicates Sunday morning to the gods of policy, scandal and pith). But Trump surrogates are clearly appealing to a different audience: an audience of one, who may well tweet them a nice pat on the back. The goal — as Miller demonstrated over the weekend — is not to persuade or even explain. It is to confidently repeat Trump’s most absurd or unsubstantiated claims from the previous week.

The inane ravings of Conway and Spicer certainly do come to mind. As I wrote yesterday, Spicer is very careful to not assign any human failure to Trump. He cannot be deceived; he cannot be mistaken. He instinctively knows what’s right. And as William Saletan wrote at Slate:

Conway’s spin on Monday (that Flynn still had Trump’s confidence) and her spin on Tuesday morning (that Flynn had lost Trump’s confidence but was still a stand-up guy) had been replaced by a third account from Press Secretary Sean Spicer: that Trump had been “reviewing and evaluating this issue with respect to Gen. Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks, trying to ascertain the truth.” The tale of Trump’s heroism in standing by Flynn had evolved into a tale of Trump’s heroism in investigating Flynn. Maybe Conway will tell this story in her next round of interviews. Or maybe, by then, she’ll have come up with another.

Only one thing stays constant in Conway’s propaganda: Trump is the hero. The pathologies she demonstrated on Tuesday have infected the entire White House. They consumed Trump and his aides during the campaign, and they have driven the administration’s conduct in office. On every principle—loyalty, secrecy, truth, right and wrong—Trump’s circle acknowledges only one standard and one master: Trump.

Trump’s own pathology on that score is evidenced by the fact that he’s stopped calling on any but right-wing media at press conferences.  And the White House is now giving press credentials to right-wing blogs; Gateway Pundit, for example. Seriously.

Back to Michael Gerson,

Trump has run a family business but never a large organization. Nor has he seen such an organization as an employee. “Trump,” says another former official, “is ill-suited to appreciate the importance of a coherent chain of command and decision-making process. On the contrary, his instincts run instead toward multiple mini power centers, which rewards competing aggressively for Trump’s favor.” …

… The president may thrive in chaos, but the presidency does not. A president needs aides who will give him honest information and analysis, not compete for his favor. This may even involve checking a president’s mistaken instincts.

But no one in Trump’s little hothouse of a White House is ever going to check his mistaken instincts, are they? They’re a clump of pathologically co-dependent losers enabling each other.

It’s too soon to expect many Trump voters to admit they were had. But if the White House continues to lurch from one absurd crisis to another — many over relatively trivial things like Ivanka’s products being nixed by Nordstrom — that’s going to wear thin, sooner or later. It’s also the case that he’s not likely to accomplish any of the things he promised. And if he does — like end Obamacare — that’s likely to bite him even worse.

The more he founders, the weaker he looks. And perceived weakness will kill his brand. Unless he possesses a lot more intelligence and fortitude than he’s exhibited so far, the first real crisis could do him in. This is not a president people are likely to rally around.

BTW, today he answered a question from an Israeli reporter about anti-Semitism in his administration by bragging about his election victory. He can’t let it go.

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Because Dear Leader Is Without Flaw

Trump Maladministration

Josh Marshall noticed something peculiar in Sean Spicer’s presser today.

Note that in Sean Spicer’s initial discussion of the Flynn matter, he clearly did not say that Flynn had misled the President. The consistent refrain is that he misled Vice President Pence “and others.” He also went to great lengths to say there was nothing substantively or legally wrong with what Flynn what Flynn did. The issue is entirely one of communication between Michael Flynn and the Vice President “and others.” Spicer said the President lost confidence because of Flynn’s lack of truthfulness with Pence. It is no accident that there is no mention of Flynn misleading the President.

This is the way people talk when they know they’re going to be screamed at if they say otherwise. See also “The White House’s Rapidly Shifting Story on Firing Flynn.” The White House is trying to say that the so-called president both knew and didn’t know what was going on with Flynn.

Spicer says the so-called president was informed of the issue some time back — January 26 or thereabouts — and knew “instinctively” that Flynn hadn’t broken any laws. But this Friday the SCROTUS denied knowing anything at all about the Flynn situation. Now we learn that he knew about it and was not deceived, although other people were deceived. Too bad about them, I guess.

But if D.T. were not deceived, and Flynn goes down for violation of the Logan Act, or worse, wouldn’t that make anyone not-deceived but who kept him around and covered it up several more days also culpable?

I have a headache.

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The United States Is Being Governed by Spoiled, Idiot Children

Trump Maladministration

Paul Waldman wrote this before the Flynn resignation. It’s titled “This Is What Incompetence Looks Like.”

But in the latest round of stories about Flynn, what is perhaps most striking is what a chaotic mess the White House’s national security operation — which Flynn is supposed to manage — has become. As the New York Times reports Monday, National Security Council staff “get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.” Then there’s this:

Two people with direct access to the White House leadership said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia — which is clamoring to have an Obama administration ban on the sale of cluster bombs and precision-guided weapons lifted — or to deliver bigger weapons packages to the United Arab Emirates.

Several staff members said that Mr. Flynn, who was a career Army officer, was not familiar with how to call up the National Guard in an emergency — for, say, a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the detonation of a dirty bomb in an American city.

This story — of key White House staff surprised to learn how some particularly important process actually works — is something we’ve seen again and again. For instance, the process leading to the executive order on travel restrictions was apparently overseen by Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller without the input of the relevant agencies or legal counsel, and it ultimately was put on hold by the courts — which was of course precisely what happened, to the president’s shock and anger.

Flynn was asked to resign, a White House official told Talking Points Memo. There were reports last week Flynn was being thrown under the bus. Apparently he gets on peoples’ nerves. TPM also points out that “Flynn is the third member of the Trump campaign/administration to resign over issues related to Russia: Manafort and Page.”

Naturally, the utterly partisan toady Rep.  Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, says his committee won’t bother to investigate in spite of the big, honking, neon-lit appearance of illegal activity in the Trump maladministration. Chaffetz is too busy looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails, it seems.

The House Intelligence Committee will be no help, either.

An important point to note. Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn just resigned amidst a counter-intelligence investigation into, among other things, his communications with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. But only three or four hours before Flynn resigned, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence), Devin Nunes, said there was no problem and it was just the President’s enemies (“the swamp” in his words) making trouble. “It just seems like there’s a lot of nothing here,” Nunes told Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis.

This is only a particularly embarrassing illustration of a larger problem. The Republican Congress has no interest in any oversight of the Trump administration. None. Sure, opposing parties usually scrutinize administrations more aggressively. But it’s rare to have this level of complete refusal. Again, only three or four hours before Flynn resigned in disgrace, Nunes put forward an aggressive defense of Flynn and said nothing was wrong at all.

And this just in — Russia has deployed a missile that violates our arms control treaty. What will the so-called president do? If anything? Give Putin a pass?

Meanwhile, Kennyanne “Mouth of Sauron” Conway is spinning so many clashing talking points even Matt Lauer told her she wasn’t making sense.

Note also:

The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.

The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the ­Russian diplomat, had told Vice ­President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the ­information.

Sally Yates is, of course, the acting Attorney General fired by Trump for standing in the way of his unconstitutional travel ban. Perhaps that firing needs to be revisited.

Finally, see  10 unanswered questions after Michael Flynn’s resignation.  Here are the ten questions (read the article for commentary):

1. What, if anything, did Trump authorize Flynn to tell the Russians before his inauguration?

2. Why was Trump planning to stand by Flynn?

3. What did White House counsel Donald McGahn do after the then-acting attorney general notified him last month that Flynn was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail?

4. What is the status of the FBI investigation into possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia?

5. Will Spicer and Pence apologize for making false statements to the American people?

6. Will Flynn face prosecution under the Logan Act?

7. What will the Senate Intelligence Committee uncover about contacts Flynn and others affiliated with Trump had with Russia before the election?

8. Who replaces Flynn?

9. Who else leaves the White House because Flynn is gone?

And, finally,

10. Who exactly is in charge at the White House?

No grown-ups; that’s for sure.

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The So-Called President Is a Boor and a Slob

Trump Maladministration

Some of the general weirdness surrounding Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Mar-a-Lago over the weekend is just now coming out. And I’m not talking about the handshake. Which was bad enough.

For starters, on Saturday one of the guests took photos of the aide who carries the nuclear codes and posted them on Facebook. I assume those aides have been photographed before. But we also learned his name is “Rick.”

But then, as the SCROTUS (So-called Ruler of the United States; I can’t take credit for that, alas) and the Prime Minister were dining on the terrace among the paying guests, word got to them that North Korea had test-fired a ballistic missile. So the very not-secure table on the terrace turned into a situation room, with aides using cell phone “flashlight” functions to light papers on the table.

And were those secure cell phones? A good hacker could have been filming the whole conference.

And the same fellow who had photographed the aide then took photos of the conference, some just a few feet away, and posted those on Facebook, and it appears Instagram as well.

Also, many people reported that while this conference was going on, they were eating iceberg wedge salads, probably with blue cheese dressing. How déclassée.

Then, after a hastily assembled press conference about North Korea, the SCROTUS crashed a wedding reception, with the Prime Minister of Japan in tow. Trump then turned his back on the PM (while calling him “Shinzo) to schmooze with the wedded couple and their families, who turned out to be big-time Trump donors. This would be boorish behavior if the “Shinzo” were his cousin visiting from Chicago, never mind a visiting head of state.

I hope Shinzo has a sense of humor.

This seems to be part of a pattern, though. The SCOTUS has no interest in security protocols, apparently. Never mind manners.

Earlier in the week, Trump had been criticized for leaving intelligence documents vulnerable to people without security clearance. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) noticed that the president kept the key in a secured bag while hosting people in the Oval Office, which is a bit like leaving your house keys in your front door while you’re having a party in your backyard. There’s no indication that anyone saw anything confidential in this incident, but this, Heinrich suggested, was “Classified 101.”

Compared to holding a national security conversation over dinner in the public dining room at his private club, though, the lockbag incident pales.

This article goes on to explain how risky the conference on the terrace was, especially with all those cell phones providing reading light, and people with no security clearance whatsoever a few feet away. And it also mentions this:

Close observers of the 2016 election will remember that, on occasion, President Trump liked to draw attention to his opponent’s security practices as a way of criticism. There was, you may recall, something about an email server.

“Hillary Clinton … sent classified information, even during her travels overseas, jeopardizing the national security of the American people by allowing her emails to be hacked by foreign intelligence services,” Trump’s campaign website declared. But it wasn’t just Clinton who was the target of his criticism: The Democratic National Committee got hacked because it didn’t have a “very strong defense system against hacking” the way the Republicans did (as he said during a cybersecurity session on Jan. 31). The government was hacked by China because “we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing” (as said in his Jan. 11 news conference). Trump, the idea went, would not be so naive on the critical subject of national security.

Perhaps it’s harder than it looks.

People who can’t be bothered to take care of details, like picking up your own socks, or taking care that you don’t leave sensitive documents in an unlocked briefcase, are what we call slobs.

Update: Charles Pierce writes of the social media photograph”

This is just the most amazing picture ever. The classified information on the screen of an open cellphone. The aides using the flashlights of their own phones to help the president*—and the waitstaff—read the classified material. Shinzo Abe sitting there and wondering what he’s gotten himself into.

Every editor who assigned a story about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s secret server and the e-mails should immediately consider moving to a monastery on a mountainside in Albania and engage in ritual purification of the body until they get further instructions.

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Recognizing Bull****

Trump Maladministration

So I take a peak at the Web this morning and learn, from a bunch of right-wing sites, that 72 refugees from the seven “banned” countries have been convicted of terrorism. Like it says here.

How do we recognize this headline as bullshit? Let me count the ways.

First, you might be experiencing cognitive dissonance. If there were acts of terrorism on U.S. soil by Muslim refugees from the seven banned countries, how come we haven’t heard about it? So far, the so-called president and his aides have been unable to identify a single terrorist attack that news media haven’t covered. And lots of people across the political spectrum have been saying there have been no such attacks on U.S. soil.

The best I can come up with is this, from Politifact:

Experts on terrorism tell us that since 9/11 no one in the United States has been killed in a terrorist attack by someone from the seven countries for which Trump’s executive order temporarily suspends admission. Those countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But there have been at least three non-deadly cases in which the perpetrator was connected to Iran or Somalia.

And these are?

One of those examples includes the November 2016 attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who had lived in Pakistan before coming to the United States. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, was shot dead by a police officer after he slammed his car into pedestrians and injured others with a butcher knife. The FBI said it would investigate the attack as a “potential act of terrorism.”

In September 2016, Dahir Adan was shot dead after stabbing nine people in a Minnesota shopping mall. Adan was identified by his father as Somali but born in Kenyamoving to the United States when he was a child.

Another incident was in 2006, when Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar ran a Jeep Cherokee into a crowd of people at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Thinking he would be killed during the attack, Taheri-Azar left a letter in his apartment saying he wanted revenge for the deaths of Muslims across the world caused by the United States, the AP reported. A naturalized citizen born in Iran, Taheri-Azar in 2008 plead guilty to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced for up to 33 years in prison.

I don’t think Dahir Adan should count; it appears he wasn’t really from Somalia. But we’ll give the wingnuts two would-be terrorists from the seven banned countries, although I don’t believe either was convicted of terrorism. Which means the Washington Examiner may have been confused when it published this:

Since 9/11, 72 individuals from the seven mostly Muslim countries covered by President Trump’s “extreme vetting” executive order have been convicted of terrorism, bolstering the administration’s immigration ban.

We get another clue from reading the article, which breaks down the “convicted” by country — 20 from Somalia, 19 from Yemen, etc. — but gives us no clue whatsoever what any of them actually did.

We get an even bigger clue when we read that the source of this information is something called the Center for Immigration Studies, which even the Daily Beast calls a “false fact think tank.” Right Wing Watch says that CIS was founded by a white nationalist named John Tanton, and you can read RWW’s archive of John Tanton articles here.

The CIS itself says that it got its list of 72 convicted terrorists from a Senate subcommittee:

In June 2016 the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, then chaired by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, released a report on individuals convicted in terror cases since 9/11. Using open sources (because the Obama administration refused to provide government records), the report found that 380 out of 580 people convicted in terror cases since 9/11 were foreign-born. The report is no longer available on the Senate website, but a summary published by Fox News is available here.

Jeff Sessions = big, red bullshit flag. But let’s continue.

From the CIS site one can indeed download an Excel file listing the 72 convicted persons and what they were convicted of.  Let us assume this is a real list of actual convicted people and not something made up out of thin air.

There are actually 74 people on the list. Several of them were charged in October 2001 or shortly thereafter and convicted of things like passport forgery and unlicensed financial transactions. Whether the poor buggers were really guilty of anything or just got caught up in the hysteria of the times, we’ll probably never know.

Going up the list, but still in the Bush II years, we find a lot of people convicted of “conspiracy” (of what?) and things like procurement of naturalization by fraud, false statements, violation of export license laws, and “neutrality violation.” A few were convicted of unlawful firearm or explosive device possession. So it may be that some of these people had violent intentions but were caught before the intentions were carried out. I notice one guy convicted of using a firearm in a crime; maybe he held up a liquor store. The convicted persons are all listed as affiliated with various terrorist organizations, but whether that’s true or something added by a Senate staffer with a vivid imagination, we have no way to know.

More recently, 19 of the 74 people were charged and convicted during the Obama Administration, but none after 2011. Even though this list was compiled in 2016, it says, we see nothing on this list that happen more recently than six years ago. (In fact, we don’t know when this stuff happened; the dates tell us when the convicted persons were first charged.) Which suggests that the threat from the seven banned countries isn’t such a clear and present danger that we have to tear up the Constitution to deal with it.

Perhaps the travel restrictions and vetting requirements that the Obama Administration already had in place were doing the job of keeping us safe just fine. Imagine that.

The hysteria currently circulating on right-wing websites is that the 9th circuit court hid this information, somehow, and they are playing with our lives. Although one wonders why the Justice Department didn’t submit it into evidence, if it was so compelling.

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Is Anyone in Charge?

Trump Maladministration

Josh Marshall points out that Trump has, apparently, rolled on some issues.

Just in the last 24 hours he appears to have been rolled so many times that one imagines his rough edges might start to be worn down until he becomes something more like a clumpy and perhaps oblong ball.

Examples? One, he meekly agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States would maintain the One China policy. The White House press release on this matter actually said, “The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘one China’ policy.” Whether the SPOTUS understood what he agreed to, we can only guess.

Then this happened yesterday:

Then this afternoon EU foreign policy chief (in effect, the EU foreign minister) Federica Mogherini said that she had been assured in her meetings with top administration officials that the Trump administration intended to “stick to the full implementation of the [Iran nuclear] agreement.”

Of course, in this administration “top administration officials” are the equivalent of little boys who get sucked into grown-up meetings when they aren’t squirting glue into the White House light sockets or short sheeting the bed in the Lincoln bedroom.

But Trump on the campaign trail had promised over and over to undo the deal. It was the worst deal he ever saw. And if history is our guide, he may change his mind again. And a few more times.

In the past 24 hours or so, the White House has changed direction several times on the travel ban. Yesterday the Washington Post issued news alerts 30 minutes apart, one saying that Trump would not further appeal the restraining order, and the other saying he would. Both alerts were based on White House statements. A wag on twitter referred to “Schrodinger’s Executive Order: both being appealed and not being appealed.”

More recently, Trump himself announced he would issue a new, revised travel ban next week. Probably. But all options are still on the table. And, of course, this morning he tweeted that “Our legal system is broken!”

Can we say Trump is flailing? I think so.

Trump also is still obsessing over losing the popular vote. Just two days ago he started ranting about it again in a closed door lunch with ten senators, Politico reports.

On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that he won the presidential election.

As soon as the door closed and the reporters allowed to observe for a few minutes had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison, or “Sherpa,” on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch.

The president claimed that he and Ayotte both would have been victorious in the Granite State if not for the “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from neighboring Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in New Hampshire.

According to one participant who described the meeting, “an uncomfortable silence” momentarily overtook the room.

Friday, FEC Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub asked Trump to cough up his evidence.

“The scheme the President of the United States alleges would constitute thousands of felony criminal offences under New Hampshire law,” FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in a statement. (

And so on.

As we say in the Ozarks, the boy ain’t right. So the question is, how long before he completely melts down?

The capitulations on China and Iran — which I hope stand — suggest to me that Trump is becoming increasingly mentally confused, or else he’s just exhausted. Becoming POTUS must be like walking into a buzzsaw, and if one is mentally and emotionally wobbly to begin with, one is likely to fly to pieces.

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