Does the constant posting of all this anti-Trump stuff annoy or exhaust you? The messengers aren’t the problem here, guys. The White House’s bet is to overwhelm us with so much crazy shit we can’t cover it. They want to dilute the outrage and alienate voters who don’t consume much news: alienate them from the media, and from people who (rightly, in my view) won’t shut up about it.
I’m going to try to prove that point here, and possibly every week if I can. This is a dump—by no means comprehensive—of things the Trump administration did last week, marked from Jan. 29 – Feb. 5.
And I want to hear from you. Can you (did you?) read the whole thing? Can you read it without getting annoyed, exhausted, or depressed? Do you have suggestions on how to cover the orgy of newsworthy/insane stories? I am at a total loss here.
Yet here we go…
1. First of all, the Yemen raid. Trump and Sean Spicer hailed it as a success, but it was in fact a failure in almost every way. I’ll show you why in a second. But before I do, I want to be clear the Benghazi witch hunt was an embarrassment. I’m not advocating a similar witch hunt or prosecution or hearing or anything here. All the details are conflicting and the story is very fuzzy. But I want to offer a counter-narrative to what the White House put forward this week, because there’s an awful lot of evidence pointing to the fact they are either irresponsibly mischaracterizing the story, cherrypicking their evidence, ignoring other information a la the Bush administration, or, I have to say it, possibly lying.
That said, I can’t wait to say this… 3… 2… 1…
Trump’s first counterterrorism operation in Yemen led to the deatha of one US commando, 14 al Qaeda operatives, and 15 civilians, including women and children. Anonymous sources in Congress and the national security establishment said Trump approved his first covert military operation “without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.” It also recently came out that Trump wasn’t in the White House Situation Room— where he would have had legal and national security access—at the time of the raid. He was briefed on the mission at dinner with no lawyers present. Sources also said that during the raid, military commanders on the ground were pressured to go ahead after it was compromised. Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner were present at the dinner briefing, as was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, whom John McCain said would never have approved a mission on bad intelligence.
When Sean Spicer was asked about the death of Ryan Owens, the SEAL member in the raid, Spicer called the mission a “complete success.” Trump also called the mission a success, and said it had yielded “important intelligence.” It was recently revealed the target of the raid was reportedly Qasim al Raymi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whom the SEALs were attempting to capture. He just posted a video condemning the raid. Curiously, Spicer also blamed the mission on Obama, whom he said approved the mission in a January 6 meeting, when the “deputies committee recommended the plan go forward.” However, Colin Kahl, a national security official under Obama said he was at that meeting and the mission was not recommended.
Kahl went on to further say the execution of the raid wasn’t even discussed, and that Obama wanted to leave the decision up to the Trump administration. Obama didn’t want the mission to go ahead, according to Kahl, because he thought it would lead to a US military escalation in Yemen. Kahl cited the National Security Council director for Yemen, Eric Pelofsky, who said the Obama team didn’t make any decisions on the raid and prepared their analysis to hand off to the Trump team. The Trump team made the decision to go ahead after reviewing the intelligence over a dinner.
If that mission was truly a success, wouldn’t Spicer be crediting this to Obama instead of blaming him?
But here’s your success. As proof of the “important intelligence” Trump claimed the raid captured, the Pentagon released a video they found at the al Qaeda camp. The video—a guy in a white robe showing how to make the kind of explosive that the shoe bomber used—was ten years old and had been publicly and broadly distributed.
After US Central Command was called out on the video, they removed it from their website and canceled a conference they’d set up to discuss the intelligence that had been gathered in the raid.
But when Trump gave his first presidential address to the military (this was Feb. 6 and technically not part of this week in review), he did not mention Owens and did not mention the raid, which was the first military order he gave as commander-in-chief. Trump did talk about the Special Forces and alluded to the raid: “SOCOM has dispatched its legendary warriors to the most secret, sensitive and daring missions in defense of the United States of America. No enemy stands a chance against our Special Force [sic], not even a chance. They don’t have a chance. And that’s the way we’re going to keep it.”
Again: Trump did not honor Owens or the three wounded SEALS or praise the team for its courage under fire. In front of the military. Trump supporters, what the fuck do you say about that?
Oh yes, and this was Trump’s first tweet upon waking up the morning after a soldier died in the first military operation Trump ordered: “Somebody with aptitude and conviction should buy the FAKE NEWS and failing @nytimes and either run it correctly or let it fold with dignity!”
The civilians killed in the raid included an 8-yr-old girl (a US citizen), the daughter of influential radical Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki. Awlaki—the guy behind the underwear bombing attempt—was the first US citizen our government killed in a drone strike; we also killed his 14-year-old son. Awlaki is a martyr and is still a highly influential jihadist figure. Now we have killed his daughter.
2. A White House aide said Trump turned off the recording in his Friday call with Putin. The White House didn’t offer a transcript of the call, just a one-paragraph summary.
3. In Paris, a knife-wielding Muslim from Egypt (not one of the countries on our ban) attacked soldiers at the Louvre with a machete and was shot, but not killed. Trump issued a tweet calling the attacker “a new radical Islamic terrorist.” He didn’t offer a comment about the soldier injured in the attack. And as jihadists often do, the attacker apparently screamed, “Allahu Akbar”—god is great.
4. Trump has also still not made any public statement about last week’s shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed eight Muslims. Witnesses to that attack said the shooter—a white Canadian nationalist and vocal Trump supporter—also shouted, “Allahu Akbar” with unfathomably black irony as he opened fire.
5. The cover of Der Spiegel featured Trump holding a machete in one hand and the bleeding, decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty in the other—the familiar pose of an Islamic State fighter.
6. After a federal judge blocked Trump’s travel ban, the US reopened its borders to refugees and travelers from the seven banned countries. After Trump woke up Saturday—at his Mar a Lago resort on the first vacation of his two-week-old presidency—he tweeted the ruling of “this so-called judge” was “ridiculous” and vowed to overturn it. Within a minute he retweeted it from the official presidential twitter account, @potus. Later in the day, in his third tweet about the subject, he characterized the judge’s opinion as a “ridiculous lift ban decision.” The judge—James Robart, who was appointed by George W. Bush and approved by the Senate with 99 votes in favor—said “there’s no support” for the argument that “we have to protect the U.S. from individuals” from these seven countries. No one from any of those countries has ever killed an American in a terrorist attack on US soil.
7. The Justice Department filed for an emergency stay on the judge’s ruling and made a formal appeal to the courts. The case will probably go to the Supreme Court.
8. The emergency stay was subsequently rejected by the appellate courts.
9. After Judge Robart blocked the ban, the Trump team apparently told Border Patrol agents to ignore the ruling and continue enforcing the ban as before. Joaquin Castro (D, TX) pointed out that if this proves to be the case it would mean Trump knowingly exceeded his constitutional authority, which would merit a congressional censure and possibly impeachment. Castro called for an investigation, along with several other Democrats on the hill.
10. According to administration officials, Trump’s pick for Army Secretary withdrew from the nomination because it would too difficult to untangle himself from his business ties, which are exponentially less complicated than ones of the man who appointed him.
11. Trump signed an order asking Treasury to review the Dodd-Frank regulations, put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. The order would repeal the “Volcker rule,” which prevents banks from making speculative investments. It also includes a baffling order to delay a rule that would require retirement financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interests. That rule was supposed to go into place in April, but now it will be pushed back six months while it’s reviewed. Opponents say that if the repeal goes into effect, retirement advisers wouldn’t work with or for poor clients. Republicans in Congress have already tried to veto the rule.
12. Melania Trump has been living with Barron in Trump Tower. She hasn’t appointed a press secretary or opened the White House to visitors. For that matter, it’s heavily rumored she won’t live in the White House. Over the course of Trump’s term, it would cost taxpayers an estimated $1.46 billion for Melania to live in Trump Tower.
13. As I mentioned above, Trump took the first vacation of his two-week-old presidency this weekend at his Mar a Lago resort. It will cost US taxpayers about five million dollars for Trump to spend this weekend at a resort he owns.
14. Eric Trump had Secret Service protection on a business trip to Uruguay, where he hosted a party at Trump Tower in the capital. This is normal: The president’s family always gets Secret Service protection. Even though public funds paid for the trip, government agencies wouldn’t reveal the name of the hotel or the number of booked rooms, or even how long Eric stayed. According to The Washington Post, a spokesman from the Secret Service declined to comment. The money came from the State Department, but a DOS spokesman wouldn’t comment, either, and referred reporters to the White House and, again, back to the Secret Service, who once again declined to comment. The White House didn’t respond either.
15. Trump takes Propecia. This fact was revealed by Trump’s doctor, Harold N. Borstein, MD, a gastroenterologist who also wrote a hilarious letter this summer claiming Trump would be “unequivocally the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Dr. Bornstein said he also takes Propecia and told the Times, “I have all my hair.” The White House won’t say whether Dr. Borstein is still Trump’s physician. Dr. Borstein—whose business card says “dottore molto famoso” (“very famous doctor” in Italian)—also revealed Trump takes meds for high cholesterol, but Borstein assured The New York Times that “if something happens to [Trump], then it happens to him… That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.” Trump is the oldest president in US history.
16. Fake news has gone to the next level: Reverse plagiarism. It was reported that there’s a site called the Center for Global Strategic Monitoring writing fake articles and opinion pieces but attributes them to real people. The articles say the opposite of what the authors truly believe.
17. After Iran conducted a ballistic missile test violating UN rules but not the US nuclear deal, Trump tweeted Iran was “playing with fire” and officially put them “on notice.” We then applied new sanctions to Iran, who responded by doing a few more missile, radar, and cyber warfare system tests. An Iranian commander said, “If we see the smallest misstep from the enemies, our roaring missiles will fall on their heads.”
18. This one really sickens me: The FCC issued an order that stops internet companies from providing federally subsidized Internet to poor people. Nine service providers were affected. The head of one of those companies said, “I’m most concerned about the children we serve. We partner with school districts—41 states and the District of Columbia—to provide educational broadband so that poor kids can do their homework.” The new head of the FCC justified his decision by saying that revoking the nine approvals “would promote program integrity by providing the [FCC] with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program.”
The Intercept dumped a bunch of insider FBI documents: One big reveal: white supremacists have deeply infiltrated law enforcement; and the FBI can secretly tap and track journalists without judicial review, as well as trace confidential sources.
20. When Sean Spicer was asked directly about a five-year-old US citizen who was handcuffed at Dulles Airport over the weekend, he said the kid could have posed a security threat and there’s no reason to discriminate based on age or gender.
21. Despite the sizable protests and chaos at airports around the country, Trump said the implementation of the ban was going “nicely.”
22. There’s a draft order going around the White House about deporting all immigrants who use public assistance such as welfare and school lunch programs. Keep in mind that’s just immigrants—normal, legal immigrants such as Donald J. Trump’s wife, Melania Trump. This wouldn’t apply to undocumented immigrants because they don’t use those programs (they can’t) even though they pay taxes supporting those very welfare programs.
23. Kellyanne Conway said it was time for Trump to start his own private intelligence organization, right after Stephen Bannon was appointed to the security council.
24. According to a Washington Post report, Bannon reportedly tried to order DHS secretary John Kelly to not issue a waiver excusing green-card holders from the travel ban. Great guy.
25. Trump is also apparently keeping his private security team, a la every 20th century fascist.
26. It was revealed Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorusch, started a “Fascism Forever” club at his private D.C. Jesuit high school.
27. A Trump adviser (Roger Stone) said Trump, who uses bobby pins to hold what hair he has in place, needs “pro-Trump” judges on the courts. Trump could appoint as many as 103 federal judges (who serve for life) today. Today. That is twice as many as Obama.
28. Trump picked a far-right judge, Gorsuch, to replace Scalia in a reality TV-style reveal. Many people believe this nomination “stole” Merrick Garland’s seat on the court. Obama wouldn’t allow Democrats to change Senate voting rules (“the nuclear option”) to force Garland through. But Trump specifically told Mitch McConnell to use the nuclear option if Democrats do what the Republicans just did.
29. It’s worth noting Gorsuch used to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. I believe this is the first time a Supreme Court justice will sit with his clerk on the bench. This is important because Kennedy is heavily rumored to be considering retirement in a few months, and Trump’s pick was a signal to Kennedy that he would make a sane choice if Kennedy retired. So he picked Kennedy’s old clerk.
30. Until then, though, the administration seems likely to ignore the courts the best they can: Though the courts blocked parts of the travel ban, Trump (or someone in the administration) ordered the border agents to ignore those court orders and the ban continued as planned. If they ignore the courts then it would probably take long enough for those cases to make it up to SCOTUS (especially if those possible 103 Trump judicial appointees slow the appeals down) after Kennedy retires. It’d be a 5-4 SCOTUS, pro-Trump. He already has the legislative branch.
31. Speaking of appointments, Trump asked Jerry Falwell, Jr.—a bigoted creationist shithead who runs Liberty University—to lead a federal task force on higher-ed policy.
32. Speaking of education appointments, Betsy DeVos—who never attended public school; whose children never attended public school; who said guns were okay in schools, in one case citing potential grizzly bear attacks; who did not know what the assessment metrics were for public schools—is on the bubble to be approved as the secretary of education. One vote away. We will know soon if one Republican Senator has the moral—no, common sense to vote against her.
33. UC Berkeley students rioted and lit a tree on fire to protest the visit of insane racist Milo Yiannopoulos, which Stephen Bannon set up to provoke that exact reaction. This prompted Trump to threaten via a 6 a.m. tweet to take away federal funding for UC Berkeley.
34. Trump also went on a Twitter campaign against Iran, a country that just performed a ballistic missile test violating UN accords but not the nuclear deal. He “put Iran on notice” for that launch, but it’s unclear what he meant by that. On Twitter, he also alluded to Iran taking over “more and more” of Iraq, as if it were somehow our fault—Iraq made Obama leave and wouldn’t accept more troops. Iraq’s Shi’ite government, which we installed after Saddam Hussein was taken out, is more aligned with Iran. It’s unclear what Trump’s complaint is, and even less clear what he thinks he can do about it.
35. Trump fired acting attorney general Sally Yates for standing up to the travel ban (and repeatedly called it a ban publicly, even though his press secretary said it was NOT a ban) by sending her a letter via courier and releasing a memo claiming Yates “betrayed” her country and was “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.” The memo went on to include two non sequiturs: one attacking the Senate for delaying Sessions’ confirmation and another saying “tougher vetting for individuals travelling [sic] from seven countries is not extreme”—even though Trump calls it extreme vetting all the time.
36. A right-wing Canadian who expressed admiration for Trump and Marine Le Pen shot up a mosque in Quebec City, killing six Muslims and wounding many more two days after the ban was signed.
37. A Texas mosque torched a few hours after the ban has now raised well over $1 million to rebuild.
38. Trump told the President of Mexico—on the phone—that because the Mexican military wasn’t doing enough about drug crime, Trump might send U.S. troops into Mexico to take out the “bad hombres” down there.
39. Once more: Trump said “bad hombres” to the President of Mexico.
40. Once more: Trump threatened the President of Mexico with a military invasion of Mexico.
41. In a separate diplomatic call with a longstanding staunch ally—this time Australia—Trump, toupee in full effect, boasted about the size of his inaugural crowd and electoral victory, but then seemed surprised to learn the US had an agreement with Australia that we would take 1250 of the 2500 refugees who have been held for years on the island of Nauru without trial. The agreement was struck well before Trump came into office. On the call Trump told the PM, “This is the worst deal ever,” that Australia was sending the US “the next Boston bombers,” and that if Trump accepted the refugees it would “kill him politically”. But that shouldn’t have been a surprise. The travel ban executive order included language exempting “preexisting international agreement”—specifically on account for the Australian agreement. When the PM tried to get past the conflict, Trump ended the hour-long call — with 35 minutes to go. Trump then took to Twitter to “study this dumb deal” that he knew nothing about even though he signed a law accounting for it and bragged about how great that law was for days.
42. Trump also gave his first remarks about Black History Month. He opened, as usual, by talking about his election victory, then “celebrated the life of MLK, whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news.” He called the story “a disgrace” and “very unfortunate” and his remarks about King ended there. He also used the occasion to attack CNN, mention two black people he knows, and claim “we ended up getting substantially more [black votes] than other candidates who had run in the past years.” He did not clarify which candidates he was referring to or which elected position they were seeking.
43. Senate Republicans suspended confirmation rules and approved two Trump appointees—Mnuchin (Treasury) and Price (Health)—without any Democrats present.
44. Rex Tillerson was approved as Secretary of State in one of the closest votes the position has ever seen.
45. Trump—Can we just start saying Bannon now? At least Bannon has a thick head of hair—removed the head of the DNI and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from permanent positions at the national security council. Only down to Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and Stephen Bannon.
46. It was revealed Trump signed the (illegal) order naming Bannon to the NSC, which Bannon wrote, without reading it.
47. Bannon started a “White House Strategic Initiatives Group” (basically Trump’s own intel agency), and he wrote all the executive orders himself—he then scrubbed out a paper trail so the decision making process can’t be traced.
48. Trump refused to sign an executive order enhancing cybersecurity, even though he screamed about it for months. No reason was given.
49. In a taped speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump insulted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on Celebrity Apprentice. He then pledged to repeal a law barring pastors from endorsing candidates from the pulpit: “I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”
50. At one point he also said, “To hell with it.”
51. At the breakfast, Trump simultaneously admitted he didn’t know anything about the world until he became president (off prompter) and (on prompter; i.e., written by Bannon) alluded to a coming crackdown on Islam in the name of protecting the religious freedoms of persecuted Christians: “Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways. And I’ve never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of president. The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out. OK? That’s what I do. I fix things. We’re going to straighten it out. Believe me. When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it. Just don’t worry about it. They’re tough. We have to get tough. It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks.”
52. And he said it again here: “Terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom. It must be stopped and it will be stopped. It may not be pretty for a little while. It will be stopped.”
53. And, for the benefit of the gathered clergy, he riffed again about ISIS decapitations: “We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads. Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that. We haven’t seen that, the cutting off of heads. Now they cut off the heads, they drown people in steel cages. Haven’t seen this. I haven’t seen this. Nobody’s seen this for many, many years.”
(Nobody has seen heads chopped off? How about you spend a little more time on the phone with the President of Mexico. They had at least seven decapitations last month.)
54. And last but not least, John D. Gartner, a psychotherapist who taught at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, has, in a US News article, described our president as “dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.” He believes Trump has “malignant narcissism” (different from narcissistic personality disorder). It is incurable.