Browsing the archives for the Trump Maladministration category.


Nikki Haley Says Those Other Countries Are Bad, and Other News

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Trump Maladministration

Trump keeps lurching from one unforced error to another. Wednesday morning he was still playing his chicken game. Wednesday evening he’d changed his mind, saying he’d keep families together, but he insisted on a quick legislative fix. So congressional Republicans scurried around to ready a couple of bills to vote on.

But Thursday morning, before the Republicans could vote on anything, he’d changed his mind again. Trump — or his tweeting alter ego, Stephen “Seig Heil” Miller —  undermined the whole thing. He has noticed that passing stuff in Congress actually requires some bipartisan cooperation, which is an alien thing to him.

Tara Golshan at Vox —

And as if on cue, lawmakers seemed to suddenly hit the brakes on one of the two votes slated to take place on Republican-led immigration bills on Thursday: a “compromise” bill between House conservatives and moderate Republicans, and a conservative bill originally introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Neither proposal was designed to get any Democratic votes, and Republican House members are already preparing for both bills to fail on the floor.

Charles Pierce explains what happened to the bills:

On Thursday afternoon, there were two bills pending to address the crisis caused by the administration*’s cruel and boneheaded zero-tolerance policy on the southern border. One of them was a draconian bill, and the other a purportedly more moderate one backed by Ryan and his Keystone Kops leadership team.

The former got clobbered when it came to a vote. And then, when it was time for the latter to come up, the Freedom Caucus belfry came alive with bats, and Ryan had to postpone the vote lest he suffer yet another embarrassing loss.

There was a significant altercation between Ryan and Mark Meadows, leader of the House Freedom (for Troglodytes) Caucus.

Meadows is all up in Ryan’s grill, in the well of the House, in front of God, man, and Louie Gohmert. If someone had done this to Sam Rayburn, that person’s desk would be out on the sidewalk by the end of business that day. But, because Ryan is as terrible a leader as he is an economist, Meadows pretty much blows him off.

Today, Trump has decided that Republicans in Congress should stop “wasting their time” on immigration, but to wait until after the midterms.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” Trump tweeted. “Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”

Sure, guy, whatever you say. Meanwhile, the border is in chaos. Nobody seems to know what to do.

President Donald Trump’s administration was gripped by confusion on Thursday as agencies struggled to implement his executive order halting the separation of migrant families at the U.S. border.

At the heart of the problem was uncertainty about how to begin detaining families together and whether the government would make any effort to reunite parents still in the U.S. with children currently held in separate shelters or foster facilities.

The mixed messaging began Wednesday, just hours after Trump signed his order, when the Department of Health and Human Services sent out a statement saying one of its spokespeople “misspoke” in saying that children who were already separated would not be returned to their parents but rather processed as unaccompanied minors.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice took issue with a report that border crossers would no longer automatically be referred for prosecution — the central tenet of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” enforcement policy, announced in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The chaos followed the hasty development of the executive order in response to a growing public outcry over the separations, which resulted in even babies and toddlers being sent alone to shelters. Two people familiar with the process said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told only her inner circle about the executive order, keeping top officials at DHS — including those at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection — out of the loop.

Ed Kilgore:

It seems virtually none of the people responsible for implementing Trump’s executive order got any kind of advance notice it was coming. And more importantly, the practical implications of continuing a “zero tolerance” policy without separating kids from parents being prosecuted weren’t worked out at all. That became obvious today when border-control officials and the Department of Justice got into a public conflict with the Washington Post in the middle.

In brief, the Border Patrol informed WaPo “We’re suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units,” but the Justice Department told WaPo that prosecutions were not at all suspended.

Of course, immigration isn’t exactly a new issue:

“Looking Backward” (Puck, January 11, 1893) This cartoon satirizes those immigrants and their descendants who have made it in America but would deny new immigrants the same opportunity.

Click here for more ironic images.

Elsewhere:

A United Nations report condemning entrenched poverty in the United States is a “misleading and politically motivated” document about “the wealthiest and freest country in the world,” according to the Trump administration’s ambassador to the world body.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the report for critiquing the United States’ treatment of its poor, arguing that the United Nations should instead focus on poverty in developing countries such as Burundi and Congo. The U.N. report also faulted the Trump administration for pursuing policies it said would exacerbate U.S. poverty.

“It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” Haley wrote in a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday. “In our country, the President, Members of Congress, Governors, Mayors, and City Council members actively engage on poverty issues every day. Compare that to the many countries around the world, whose governments knowingly abuse human rights and cause pain and suffering.”

Yeah, the nitwit actually said that.

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Today’s Family Separation Headlines

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Trump Maladministration

I didn’t watch MSNBC last night, but I was told that everyone on it was having a breakdown. The headlines alone tell quite a story —

APNewsBreak: Youngest migrants held in ‘tender age’ shelters

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday. …

… On a practical level, the zero tolerance policy has overwhelmed the federal agency charged with caring for the new influx of children who tend to be much younger than teens who typically have been traveling to the U.S. alone. Indeed some recent detainees are infants, taken from their mothers.

Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters said the facilities were fine, clean and safe, but the kids — who have no idea where their parents are — were hysterical, crying and acting out.

“The shelters aren’t the problem, it’s taking kids from their parents that’s the problem,” said South Texas pediatrician Marsha Griffin, who has visited many.

Texas Tribune: Separated migrant children are headed toward shelters with a history of abuse and neglect

Taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion in the past four years to private companies operating immigrant youth shelters accused of serious lapses in care, including neglect and sexual and physical abuse, an investigation by Reveal and The Texas Tribune has found.

In nearly all cases, the federal government has continued to place migrant children with the companies even after serious allegations were raised and after state inspectors cited shelters with deficiencies, government and other records show.

There’s long been a problem with “unaccompanied minors” who cross the border and must be warehoused somewhere until somebody figures out what to do with them. Creating a new class of unaccompanied minors who were not, in fact, unaccompanied isn’t helping.

Yahoo News: Businesses have made millions off Trump’s child separation policy

President Trump’s controversial child separation policy is being carried out with the help of private businesses who have received millions of dollars in government contracts to help run the shelters where young migrants are being held away from their parents.

The government has released few photos of the shelters where the children are being detained and at times declined to allow media and even elected officials access to the facilities. Amid this secrecy, many of the businesses participating in the program have remained behind the scenes without being identified.

However, by reviewing publicly available contracts data, Yahoo News was able to identify five companies that are participating in the operation of the shelters, including two companies that have not previously been tied to the program. And in response to inquiries, one of the companies said it would cease participation in a program that required it to “maintain readiness” to transport young migrants to government facilities.

How much do you want to bet that the companies getting these contracts have ties to Republican politicians?

NBC News: Trump admin’s ‘tent cities’ cost more than keeping migrant kids with parents

The cost of holding migrant children who have been separated from their parents in newly created “tent cities” is $775 per person per night, according to an official at the Department of Health and Human Services — far higher than the cost of keeping children with their parents in detention centers or holding them in more permanent buildings.

The reason for the high cost, the official and several former officials told NBC News, is that the sudden urgency to bring in security, air conditioning, medical workers and other government contractors far surpasses the cost for structures that are routinely staffed.

Detroit Free Press: Torn from immigrant parents, 8-month-old baby lands in Michigan

Four days ago, a Homeland Security official proclaimed: “We are not separating babies from parents.”

Yet in the middle of the night, two baby boys arrived in Grand Rapids after being separated from their immigrant parents at the southern border weeks ago.

One child is 8 months old; the other is 11 months old. Both children have become part of a bigger group of 50 immigrant children who have landed in foster care in western Michigan under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy.

The average age of these children is 8, a number that has alarmed foster care employees who are struggling to comfort the growing group of kids who are turning up in Michigan at nighttime, when it’s pitch-dark outside. They’re younger than ever, they say. And they are petrified.

“These kids are arriving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Not only are they being separated from their family, they are being transported to a place that they don’t know in the middle of the night,”  said Hannah Mills, program supervisor for the transitional foster care program at Bethany Christian Services, which is currently assisting the displaced children. “We have found on many occasions that no one has explained to these children where they are going.”

According to Mills, some of these displaced children got picked up right at the airport by a foster family, while others wound up at a foster care center, begging to talk to their parents. Many have gone 30 days or more without talking to their parents because their parents can’t be located, she said.

Texas Observer: Texas Officials Allow 15 Immigrant Shelters to Hold More Kids than Licenses Permit

In recent months, Texas officials have granted permission to at least 15 immigrant youth shelters to cram in more kids than their child-care licenses allow, according to records obtained by the Observer. Two shelters have been approved to hold almost 50 percent more children. The decisions come as the Trump administration separates more and more families at the border, funnelling children reportedly as young as 8 months into government shelters.

A spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, John Reynolds, said the agency allows shelters to exceed capacity only after reviewing bedspace, the number of children to a bathroom, recreational space and fire inspection compliance. But child advocates argue that the decisions are likely straining staff, endangering children and amount to the state kowtowing to the federal government.

Vanity Fair: “STEPHEN ACTUALLY ENJOYS SEEING THOSE PICTURES AT THE BORDER”: THE WEST WING IS FRACTURING OVER TRUMP’S CALLOUS MIGRANT-FAMILY POLICY

Trump’s decision to double down on the family-separation policy is sowing chaos in the West Wing, two sources close to the White House told me. For the second day in a row, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—already eyeing an exit, though not for months—did not hold an on-camera briefing with reporters. “She’s tired of taking on water for something she doesn’t believe in,” a friend of Sanders told me. “She continues to have a frustration that the policies are all over the map,” another person close to her said. “It’s not a good look for Sarah.” …

…Meanwhile, as the border crisis spirals, the absence of a coordinated policy process has allowed the most extreme administration voices to fill the vacuum. White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has all but become the face of the issue, a development that even supporters of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” position say is damaging the White House. “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

Making matters worse, Trump doesn’t seem to have an end game for the inhumane policy that is opposed by two-thirds of Americans. He’s continued to blame Democrats for allowing immigrants to “infest” the country; while in a closed-door meeting Tuesday night with congressional Republicans, he called on them to end family separation and “fix” the immigration system. He’s effectively boxed himself into a corner. “He doesn’t like this policy, and he knows it’s not helping him,” a Republican who’s spoken with him said. “But he can’t get within him that this is a problem, and he needs to take ownership of it.”

Today, Trump may be getting a clue that this is blowing up in his face …

White House considering executive action to prevent family separations at border

The White House is considering executive action to allow children to stay with parents caught crossing the border illegally, Fox News has learned — a step that could avoid the family separations that have triggered a national outcry and political crisis for Republicans.

The action under consideration would allow children to stay in detention with parents for an extended period of time.

In other words, what was going on before Trump ordered the family separations.

President Trump hinted at the new measure, while holding out hope for legislation, during remarks to reporters during a meeting Wednesday with lawmakers.

“I’ll be signing something in a little while [to keep families together],” he said, calling the move “somewhat preemptive” and stressing it would “be matched by legislation.” He also said he’s canceling the upcoming congressional picnic, adding: “It just didn’t feel right to me.”

Well, if he’s waiting for legislation …

TPM: GOP Bills To Lock Up Families Together Are Fulfilling The Trump Admin’s Wishes

Senate Republicans calling for an end to the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant parents from their children are pushing legislation that would roll back due process, anti-trafficking and human rights protections — something the administration has long sought to accomplish — allowing for faster deportations of asylum-seekers and the indefinite detention of minors.

House Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing bills that would do all that, slash legal immigration and allocate tens of billions of dollars for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

And, of course, a lot of Democrats would probably sign on to that so that they don’t get blamed for the crying babies, even though Trump was blaming them anyway.

Update: Josh Marshall

The President says he’s signing an executive order to end family separations. The actual aim seems to be to pick a fight with the courts and allow separations to continue while blaming judges. According to The New York Times, the President will sign an executive order allowing children to be detained indefinitely with their parents. The problem is that that violates a 1997 consent decree saying that you can’t detain/imprison children for more than 20 days (technically what’s currently happening isn’t detention). It straight up violates that order. So what will almost inevitably happen is that a court will step in, say you can’t do that and then Trump will announce that the judge is forcing him to keep separating families.

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Today’s Derp

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Trump Maladministration

Item 1: Somebody forgot to tell Trump the old title was “leader of the free world.” Not that he’s doing any leading.

President Donald Trump continues to tout the success of his North Korea summit last week — but it’s Kim Jong Un who’s taking the real victory lap.

On Tuesday morning, the North Korean leader made his third trip to China in as many months to meet with President Xi Jinping. Xi used the opportunity to praise Kim and say that the summit was an “important step toward the political solution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.”

And just the night before, the Pentagon announced that it would cancel a key military exercise with South Korea in August. That’s a big deal since that’s a significant concession the North Koreans have wanted for a long time. After all, they see these exercises as prep for an invasion and have protested against them every time they occur.

Xi Jinping is nobody’s fool. Trump is Xi’s fool.

Item 2: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a fool for restricting the vote. But he had a bad day in court.

District Judge Julie Robinson (a George W. Bush appointee) decisively declared Kobach’s pet voter-ID law unconstitutional, and then ordered him to take some continuing legal education classes because he kept ignoring the basic rules of evidence and discovery during the proceedings in her court.

Poor baby.

Item 3: The United States is going to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council.  Of course.

Item 4: McClatchy reports that US officials likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. We could be living through one of the most egregious human rights calamities this country ever committed.

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Maybe There Was an FBI Conspiracy …

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Trump Maladministration

If just about anyone but Paul Waldman had written this, I wouldn’t give it a second look. He argues that the real conspiraccy within the FBI was to stop Clinton from getting elected.

… a group of FBI agents in the bureau’s New York office seems to have been doing everything it could in the fall of 2016 to make sure Clinton wouldn’t become president. We don’t know their names. We haven’t read their texts. We may eventually learn the full extent of the actions they took, since the inspector general is conducting a separate investigation that involves them. But to this point, it has been something only the most dedicated aficionados of the story of how James B. Comey all but handed Trump the election knew anything about.

Let’s begin with the fact that during 2016, the FBI’s New York office was by numerous accounts the epicenter of an effort to undermine Clinton through leaks to the media and prominent Republicans. As one report put it just before the election, “Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI, multiple bureau sources have told the Guardian, spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.” As one agent put it, “The FBI is Trumpland.” A former Justice Department official told Vanity Fair in 2017, “It was widely understood that there was a faction in [the New York] office that couldn’t stand her and was out to get her.”

Their efforts became critical when the office, in the course of its investigation of Anthony Weiner, husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, acquired Weiner’s laptop on Sept. 26, 2016, and found on it thousands of emails to and from Clinton. Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and Trump’s most slavish water carrier, said last week: “We had whistleblowers that came to us in late September of 2016 who talked to us about this laptop sitting up in New York that had additional emails on it. So good F.B.I. agents brought this to our attention.” It’s a bit curious to characterize FBI agents who rushed to tell a Republican congressman about Weiner’s laptop within just a few days of its discovery, and before they had gone through the emails to see whether there was anything problematic about them (which, it turned out, there wasn’t), as “whistleblowers.” Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said yesterday that Nunes never told him at the time.

At the same time, there were agents leaking information about investigations into the Clinton Foundation to none other than Rudy Giuliani, who would then go and air the charges on Fox News. Two days before Comey would tell Congress that the bureau had reopened the investigation into Clinton’s emails — a blockbuster announcement that may well have thrown the election to Trump — Giuliani said on Fox News, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact. He’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.”

Going just by what was plainly visible in public, it certainly seemed that the FBI was giving Trump protections not being extended to Clinton.

Josh Marshall wrote something about this last week. He provides a timeline with details about the Anthony Weiner laptop episode that I did not know. Among othere things, agents in the New York office discovered the emails on the laptop in late September, and soon after contacted Devin Nunes and “other members of Congress” — but, apparently no Democrats — about them. Rudy Giuliani also got a heads up about the emails from FBI agents before the discovery was public.  Here’s a portion of the timeline:

Giuliani tells Fox News on October 25th: “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact. He’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.” The following day: “I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises.”

October 28th: James Comey sends letter to Capitol Hill disclosing discovery of Clinton emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”

October 31st: Loretta Lynch and Comey discuss letter to Congress and issue of anti-Clinton bias in New York Field Office, a pattern of bias she says “has put us where we are today.” According to Lynch, Comey said it had become clear to him “that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton. And he said it is, it is deep. It’s, and he said, he said it was surprising to him or stunning to him … and it was hard to manage because these were agents that were very, very senior, or had even had timed out and were staying on, and therefore did not really feel under pressure from headquarters or anything to that effect.” (IG Report, p. 387)

November 2nd: Rudy Giuliani tells Megyn Kelly: “You have outraged FBI agents that talk to me. They are outraged at the injustice. They are outraged at being turned down by the Justice Department to open a grand jury. They are convinced that Loretta Lynch has corrupted the Justice Department. You’ve got people in the Justice Department in charge of this investigation who are defense lawyers for Clinton people.”

And Nate Silver tweeted a couple of days ago:

Almost looks like a conspiracy.

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Trump’s Chicken Game

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Trump Maladministration

Trump is using children as a neogiating tool:

President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.

On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.

Trump’s public acknowledgment that he was willing to let the policy continue as he pursued his political goals came as the president once again blamed Democrats for a policy enacted and touted by his own administration.

“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda,” he tweeted. After listing his demands in any immigration bill, he added, “Go for it! WIN!”

Exactly what game is Trump playing here? Does he think that Democrats will be so appalled at his policy that they will give him whatever he wants to stop it? Or does he think he actually can persuade the public to think the policy is the Democrats’ fault, so that he can use public opinion as leverage? Don’t ask which is more likely; ask yourself how Trump might see this. I’m honestly not sure.  And I haven’t seen any polling on this topic yet.

Democrats have latched onto the issue and vowed to fight in the court of public opinion, with leaders planning trips to the border to highlight the stories of separated families, already the focus of news media attention. Democratic candidates running for vulnerable Republican seats also have begun to make the harsh treatment of children a centerpiece of their campaigns.

The policy has cracked Trump’s usually united conservative base, with a wide array of religious leaders and groups denouncing it. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention issued statements critical of the practice.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who delivered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, signed a letter calling the practice “horrible.” Pastor Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse, a vocal supporter of the president’s who has brushed aside past Trump controversies, called it “terrible” and “disgraceful.”

So maybe this is the bridge too far; Trump finally is doing something so horrible that even Franklin Graham can’t make excuses for it. But it strikes me that Trump is using the suffering of children to play chicken. Who is going to swerve first?

Things got really bizarre when both Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders cited the Bible as an excuse for the policy. WTF? Sessions said on Thursday,

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

Next time a bunch of Fetus People zombies picket an abortion clinic, I want to see counter-protesters carrying signs saying “ROMANS 13.”

And then later when reporters asked Sarah Sanders about it, she said,

Pushing back, Sanders said: “I’m not aware of the attorney general’s comments or what he would be referencing, [but] I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is repeated throughout the Bible.”

A whole lot of people have pointed out that this cherry-picking of Paul’s words is a distortion of what he probably meant, and there are all kinds of examples of righteous civil disobedience in the Bible. And don’t get me started on why the Bible is irrelevant to government policies. See also This isn’t religion. It’s perversion.

Paul Waldman thinks that the administration is trying to blame Democrats to deflect criticism.

The ghastly prospect of children being torn from their parents’ arms wasn’t an unintended consequence of this policy, it was central to its intention. The cruelty of the policy would provide a deterrent to those contemplating coming to the U.S. border. That was the point. As Kelly said on May 11, family separation is “a tough deterrent.”

But as more and more journalists went to the border to see this “new initiative” in action, the administration’s rhetoric shifted. Now it began saying it wasn’t a new initiative at all, just an enforcement of existing law — and since Democrats (who, you might remember, control nothing in Washington) haven’t changed that law, it’s their fault.

But my Facebook friend Jeffrey Feldman expressed the view that the Bible reference was also part of a deliberate strategy.

Please read the whole post. What Jeffrey says here is that the child snatching policy is just one part of a plan to keep us all under the thumb of authoritiarianism, and it’s going to take more than winning a few elections to stop it.

Trump’s comments yesterday make me think that creating this horrible policy and then blaming Democrats for it is all of a piece.  Trump is trying to play chicken. He thinks the Democrats will swerve first and give him what he wants, including funding the stupid wall. He also probably thinks that being cruel to Latino families will play well with his base. And he’s probably right about that.

Update: The White House has released a document titled “Results of Congressional Democrats’ Dangerous Immigration Policies” that actually begins,

CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS’ FAMILY SEPARATION POLICY: Too many American families have been permanently separated from loved ones lost to illegal alien crime.

More Orwellian than Orwell.

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Orange Is the New $7000 Suit

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Trump Maladministration

Judge revokes Manafort’s bail and orders him to prison.

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Media: Tell the Bleeping Truth

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Trump Maladministration

As I already wrote, Trump got a big boost out of the Singapore Summit when people were told, in headlines and chryons, the next morning that North Korea had agreed to denuclearize, which was no where close to the truth. The details and caveats that trickled out later would only have been noticed by politics nerds paying close attention.

Fareed Zacharia writes that the real headline should have been  “U.S. weakens its 70-year alliance with South Korea.”

The most striking elements of Trump’s initiative were not simply that he lavished praise on North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, but also that he announced the cancellation of military exercises with South Korea, adopting North Korea’s own rhetoric by calling them “provocative.”

The president must have missed his briefing. In fact, it is North Korea that provokes and threatens South Korea, as it has done since it first invaded the South in 1950. North Korea is thought to have about 1 million active-duty troops, almost twice as many as the South, and it has constructed perhaps as many as 20 tunnels to possibly mount a surprise invasion. North Korea also has more than 6,000 pieces of artillery that can reach South Korea, including some whose range is so long that they endanger 32.5 million people, more than half the country’s population, according to a study by the Rand Corp. The Defense Department estimated in 2006 that if North Korea opened artillery fire on the South, 250,000 people would be killed in Seoul alone, the Rand study notes. Of course, about a decade later, North Korea now has up to 60 nuclear bombs, complete with the missiles to deliver them. South Korea’s “war games” with the United States are necessary defensive exercises undertaken in the shadow of an aggressive adversary.

Even worse, Trump signaled that he would like to end the U.S. troop presence in South Korea. He is wrong that this would save money, unless he plans to demobilize the troops — which would mean cutting the United States’ active-duty forces, the opposite of his policy. Since South Korea covers almost half the costs of U.S. troops stationed there, moving them to, say, Georgia would not be cheaper. But that’s beside the point. Through bitter experience, the United States has found that it is much better to have troops ready, battle-trained and with knowledge of the local geography rather than keeping them all in the United States, only to be sent abroad when trouble breaks out.

But Fareed Zacharia can shout this from the rooftops all he likes; the American people were told that North Korea is doing to denuclearize, and that’s all most of them will ever hear.

Major media outlets: You still have people on your staffs with in depth knowledge of the news events you cover, or at least I assume you do. Why not let them write the headlines and chryons? Or at least have them review what the junior staffers are doing before it’s made public?

See also We Are in a Linguistic Emergency When It Comes to Trump.

Update: Greg Sargent, How the conventions of political journalism help spread Trump’s lies

The report’s core finding is that the FBI’s decision not to prosecute Clinton was untainted by bias or politics. This lays waste to one of the most important narratives pushed by President Trump and his allies in the quest to undermine special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation by claiming law enforcement is riddled with anti-Trump corruption.

But in many of this morning’s accounts about the report, you find versions of this additional claim: The IG report nonetheless provides fodder and ammunition to Trump and his allies to discredit Mueller’s probe.

Trump’s allies have widely cited the inspector general’s findings about the now-infamous texts between an FBI agent and lawyer — which do show animus towards Trump’s candidacy — as not just proof of anti-Trump bias at the FBI during the Clinton investigation, but also to bolster Trump’s argument that the Mueller probe into Russia-Trump campaign collusion is suspect.

Many news accounts inadvertently grant these arguments credibility, not just by quoting them, but also by claiming as fact that the conduct in question actually does lend support to those arguments. Yes, they also convey that the inspector general’s overall conclusion undercuts the Trumpian narrative. But the straddle itself is the problem. It showcases a convention often relied upon in political journalism — the use of the “lends fodder” formulation to float false claims alongside true ones — that has to go.

Do read the whole thing.

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You Don’t Get What You Don’t Pay For

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Trump Maladministration

The Inspector General report on the Hillary Clinton email investigation is supp0sed to be released today, and when it is it will probably eat the rest of the day’s news. Bloomberg has a preview:

Former FBI Director James Comey “deviated” from FBI and Justice Department procedures in handling the probe into Hillary Clinton, damaging the law enforcement agencies’ image of impartiality even though he wasn’t motivated by political bias, the department’s watchdog found in a highly anticipated report.

“While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the report’s conclusions, which were obtained Thursday by Bloomberg News.

Probably few will notice that New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood just filed an interesting lawsuit.

The New York attorney general on Thursday filed suit against President Trump and his three eldest children alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president’s personal charity, saying Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit — to pay off his businesses’ creditors, to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion dollar giveaway athis 2016 campaign events.

In the suit, filed Thursday morning, attorney general Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties.

No jail time, alas. But this gets to the topic I want to write about, which is that Donald Trump really hates to be parted from his own money.

It was reported yesterday that Michael Cohen is letting go of his legal team, and word is that this is partly because he’s struggling to pay them.  “The dispute between Mr. Cohen and his lawyers involves the payment of his legal bills, part of which are being financed by the Trump family,” says the New York Times.  He is likely to hire a smaller team with more criminal trial experience, it is said.

However, also, too:

One person with knowledge of the legal staffing change said Mr. Trump’s camp was “very displeased” with the way the Cohen investigation had so far been conducted. Mr. Trump himself has told people he is angry at Mr. Cohen over the messiness of the situation — especially those aspects involving Ms. Clifford. But the president has also indicated to allies that he is worried that if he pushes Mr. Cohen away too hard, it could increase the likelihood that Mr. Cohen will offer information to the government. ….

… Mr. Trump’s businesses have not been funding Mr. Cohen’s entire legal defense, but the Trump family has been paying for the time-consuming — and enormously expensive — process of reviewing the voluminous materials seized in the raids on Mr. Cohen, according to people familiar with the case. Recently, however, a dispute has erupted over the amount that Mr. Cohen’s lawyers want to charge the Trump family enterprises for the review, which the lawyers have said they are running with a large team of associates and data specialists. The disagreement could serve to further isolate Mr. Cohen from Mr. Trump — a risky move for the president.

People are scratching their heads over why Trump would be so stingy, since he’s the one who will lose if Cohen flips. Josh Marshall wrote,

You can see all the frictions and resentments at work here. Trump is pissed that Cohen was so sloppy and that he got caught. He also must fear that Cohen will betray him. But he doesn’t want to let his anger over that potential betrayal drive Cohen to actual betrayal. It’s a bit of a bind! Meanwhile Cohen is apparently bouncing between sad-sackery and defiance, his own impossible predicament.

But what’s striking about these paragraphs is this: why have this dispute over money? Would it not be worth even a few million more dollars for even the hope of keeping Cohen on board? Can Trump possibly be this cheap? Don’t answer that. It seems like all the friction is leading him to push Cohen away over mere money.

Maybe Mr. “I Just Established World Peace” thinks he’s untouchable.

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President Derp

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Trump Maladministration

Possibly the most frightening thing about the recent fiasco in Singapore is that Trump is now bragging that he has completely solved the whole world peace problem.

In tweets that began as Air Force One landed, Trump declared that there is “no longer” a nuclear threat from the rogue regime and lashed out at those who questioned what he had achieved, branding the media as “Our Country’s biggest enemy.” …

…“Just landed — a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” the president said on Twitter.

From this we can reach three possible conclusions:

  1. Trump is a moron.
  2. Trump thinks everyone else is a moron.
  3. All of the above.

Since I don’t see a smart reason why Trump would so publicly brag about something that so easily and so probably will blow up in his face, I assume that #1 is true. Uri Friedman at Atlantic:

 “Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, even though fears of war mounted after Trump took office, as North Korea’s nuclear program advanced rapidly and Trump and his advisers threatened military action to stop it. “President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer—sleep well tonight!”

Well, in a way Trump is right. Our biggest and most dangeroous problem isn’t North Korea any more. It’s Donald Trump.

Quite the contrary, North Korea remains a big and dangerous problem. And it’s also dangerous that Trump, in his recent tweets at least, doesn’t seem fully aware of the pitfalls that American officials have repeatedly encountered over the last 25 years of nuclear talks with North Korea.

For example:

Hours before Trump’s summit with Kim, the Republican Senator Jim Risch, who has discussed North Korea with the president and his top aides numerous times in recent weeks, told me that “nobody” in the Trump administration was wearing “rose-colored glasses.” “We have been taken by the North Koreans at least a couple of times [in previous rounds of negotiations], and that’s not going to happen again,” he said. “We’re [not] at a point right now where they say, ‘Okay, we’re going to denuclearize the peninsula,’ and then the president says, ‘Well, okay, we’re going to lift the sanctions.’ That is not going to happen. The president has been very, very clear that there is going to have to be positive, doable, ongoing things that are happening before anything happens from our side.”

And?

And yet, in Singapore, North Korea said exactly what Risch predicted: Sure, we’d love to eventually denuclearize the peninsula. And Donald Trump responded by proclaiming an end to the nuclear threat from North Korea.

Paul Waldman thinks that Trump, implicitly or explicitly, actually agreed to let North Korea keep its nukes.

 Let’s think about this from Trump’s perspective. He just came back from what he wants desperately to characterize as a huge success, so that’s precisely what he’ll do. He’ll say it was tremendous, fantastic, yuge, the greatest diplomatic victory in the history of human civilization. In the coming months, as the professionals try to work out concrete steps the two countries can take — a process that over the past few decades has produced endless frustration and broken promises — is Trump going to throw any wrenches into the works, say by tweeting nasty things at Kim and raising tensions again?

I seriously doubt it. Trump has plenty of other enemies he can pick fights with, and he wants to be able to pocket this as a victory, so he can say that he’s doing such a fantastic job because he cut taxes and moved toward getting rid of North Korea’s nukes. When people ask what the status of that denuclearization is, he’ll say, don’t worry, it’s happening, everything is going according to plan, it’s just that these things take time. Scientifically.

In other words, when the “agreement” falls apart in the weeds of the details, Trump is not about to admit his great achievement was a mirage and that Obama was right. He’d rip off his own lips before admitting that Obama was right.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un react at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Yep, Trump Got Played

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Trump Maladministration

Although I had predicted Trump would get nothing, I was wrong; Trump got one thing. This morning the chryons running at the bottoms of our teevee screens declared that Kim Jong Un had agreed to denuclearization. It’s a lie, but it’s going to take a while for a lot of people to figure that out.

North Korea has committed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”  They’ve been saying exactly that for decades, even as they were building up their nuclear capability.  They made the same promise to Bill Clinton in 1994. They made the same promise in 2005:

North Korea agreed Monday to end its nuclear weapons program in return for security, economic and energy benefits, potentially easing tensions with the United States after a two-year standoff over the North’s efforts to build atomic bombs.

The United States, North Korea and four other nations participating in negotiations in Beijing signed a draft accord in which the North promised to abandon efforts to produce nuclear weapons and re-admit international inspectors to its nuclear facilities.

Foreign powers said they would provide aid, diplomatic assurances and security guarantees and consider North Korea’s demands for a light-water nuclear reactor.

This agreement fell apart in 2007 in a flurry of blame-casting. So what’s different about Kim’s newest promise? Nicholas Kristoff:

The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement was what it didn’t contain. There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

Nobody with a functional cerebral cortex thinks Kim Jong Un is serious about denuclearization. He told Trump what Trump wanted to hear, and Trump is too stupid to see he was being conned. Here’s what Trump gave away:

Trump made a huge concession — the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.

Within North Korea, the “very special bond” that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades.

And then there’s this:

There was also something frankly weird about an American president savaging Canada’s prime minister one day and then embracing the leader of the most totalitarian country in the world.

“He’s a very talented man,” Trump said of Kim. “I also learned that he loves his country very much.”

In an interview with Voice of America, Trump said “I like him” and added: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country.”

Trump praised Kim in the news conference and, astonishingly, even adopted North Korean positions as his own, saying that the United States military exercises in the region are “provocative.” That’s a standard North Korean propaganda line. Likewise, Trump acknowledged that human rights in North Korea constituted a “rough situation,” but quickly added that “it’s rough in a lot of places, by the way.” (Note that a 2014 United Nations report stated that North Korean human rights violations do “not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”)

Incredibly, Trump told Voice of America that he had this message for the North Korean people: “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well.”

Now, you know that if a Democratic president had done this exact same thing, a Republican Congress would have him impeached and removed from office by the following afternoon. And what else does this remind us of?

Andy Kroll:

For Kim, the event was a coming out of sorts, a chance to show himself off to the world. He had a platform unlike any other – and far greater than anything available to him in the closed, impoverished nation he so cruelly presides over. Here was an opportunity to legitimize himself and his nation, to put North Korea on an equal footing with the mighty United States.

By all indications, Kim departed the summit on Tuesday having achieved exactly that. President Trump and the members of his administration validated the North Korean leader in a way like never before. “[Kim] is very talented,” Trump said at his post-summit press conference. “Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough…You can take 1 out of 10,000 could not do it.” Later, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “He trusts me, and I trust him.”

And what did the U.S. get in exchange? A vague, four-point joint statement in which North Korea vaguely commits to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” with no way to verify that commitment. Trump got played by a dictator half his age.

See also Jonathan Freedland, “Trump really has achieved a historic breakthrough – for the Kim dynasty

Update: Well, this clears everything up. From a Trump press conference:

MEDIA: What timetable do you envision for their denuclearization and in the meantime are you thinking about easing any sanctions?

TRUMP: You know scientifically, I’ve been watching and reading a lot about this, and it does take a long time to pull off complete denuclearization, it takes a long time. Scientifically you have to wait certain periods of time and a lot of things happen. But despite that, once you start the process it means it’s pretty much over, you can’t use em. That’s the good news, and… I believe that’s going to start very soon. We will do it as fast as it can mechanically and physically be done, Steve.

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