Halloween Ends and Odds

Happy Halloween! I don’t know what the kids in the photo are up to, but I bet they’re having fun!

The House impeachment resolution passed, 232 to 196. The “yes” votes were all Democrats. Two Dems voted no — Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. Update: No-longer-a-Republican Justin Amash voted “yes” with the Dems.

California is on fire, and Trump hasn’t said a word. I checked his Twitter feed this morning and also announcements and releases from the White House. Nada. This may be just as well; when he does say something he’ll probably blame the fire on Democrats.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, is one of the scariest people in Washington. He is such a toxic piece of work he is persona non grata even among Senate Republicans, which is why he remains acting director. A Senate that would confirm a ham sandwich to a judicial bench as long as it’s a conservative ham sandwich probably would not confirm Cuccinelli, especially not to an even bigger position.

Republican senators are warning President Donald Trump that he cannot legally appoint immigration hard-liner Ken Cuccinelli to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The White House and DHS lawyers, however, are continuing to work on a controversial end run around a federal law that prohibits Cuccinelli from serving as an acting secretary. It would likely face an immediate court challenge as well as the ire of members of his own party.

“The White House would be well advised to consult with the Senate and senators before they take any decisive action that might be embarrassing to Mr. Cuccinelli or to the White House itself,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who called the attempt to fill the top role at the department without Senate confirmations a “concern.”

Putting aside the question of how big a wackjob Cuccinelli must be to be a concern to John Cornyn — it seems to me this is not the time for Trump to be pissing off the senators who will be sitting as his jurors, probably in a few weeks.

Yesterday Cuccinelli confessed to the House Oversight Committee that he was responsible for attempting to end the program that deferred deportation of immigrants who are being treated for life-threatening illnesses.

The man who spearheaded the Trump administration bid to ramp up deportations of ailing migrants was asked Wednesday to look one despairing father in the eye, and tell him whether to abandon his sick child in the United States, or take her home to die.

But all acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Ken Cuccinelli could do was glance at Nicolas Espinosa of Ecuador, whose U.S.-born daughter Julia, 7, suffers from a rare disorder that has already cost her much of her intestine.

The heartless bastard told the committee he hadn’t bothered to learn anything about individual cases when he sent out letters giving people 33 days to get out of the country.  He blamed Congress for not passing a law clarifying why such people should have deportations deferred. Note that Cuccinelli is an anti-abortion absolutist who wants all abortions banned with no exceptions. No doubt he claims to be “saving babies.” But as far as he’s concerned babies already born and in intensive care units can be tossed out with the trash. If Cuccinalli does become acting head of DHS, he may once again attempt to terminate the program, and its beneficiaries.

Finally, we come to how hard White House staffers work to avoid confusing President Trump. Steve Benen writes,

Earlier this week, Donald Trump published a tweet suggesting he’d “never even heard of” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top expert on Ukraine on the White House National Security Council. At first blush, that didn’t make any sense: how could the president, who’s been deeply engaged on U.S. policy toward Ukraine for months, not know his own top Ukrainian expert?

It turns out that an entirely different person had been briefing Trump on Ukraine, and Trump was under the impression that person was his “top Ukrainian expert.” Lt. Col Vindman had not been allowed to brief the “president” on anything, even though he was the real expert on Ukraine and the other guy is not known to have any expertise on Ukraine at all. The other guy, Kashyap Patel, was a longtime staffer of Rep. Devin Nunes who joined the White House staff in February; in what capacity no one seems to know.

Apparently this guy Patel has been feeding Trump wackjob conspiracy theories rather than actual intelligence on Ukraine. Worse, nobody in the White House had the guts to go in and explain to Trump that Patel doesn’t know Ukraine from ukuleles and that his real Ukraine adviser was Lt. Col. Vindman.

It’s an amazing dynamic, which helps shed new light on just how dysfunctional Trump’s West Wing is. If the National Security Council’s top Ukrainian expert briefed the president, Trump might have become “confused” – not by the information Vindman was sharing, but by the fact that the president was under the impression that an entirely different person was the White House’s top Ukrainian expert.

That other person, Kashyap Patel, is an acolyte of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, and according to Vindman, Patel “misrepresented” himself to Trump in order to help guide the White House’s policy toward Ukraine.

No wonder the president has “never even heard of” Alexander Vindman. If he’d walked into the Oval Office and introduced himself as Trump’s top Ukrainian expert, the president would’ve wondered what happened to the other guy.

This is high-level, inmates-in-charge-of-the-asylum dysfunction. I’ve been in offices like that, where the staff spent a large part of their time managing the boss’s psychological state. It’s exhausting.

And just think — by next Halloween, it will be almost time for the general election. Boo!