A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 121st Unpresidented Week As POTUS
Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is emblematic of his administration: An impulsive, frantically thrown together group of characters with virtually no oversight. After Trump was sworn in, I started writing the weekly “Unpresidented” column, analyzing his every move. This is week 121.
There were multiple storylines this week that left the American people outraged.
We have to start with the deliberately unconstitutional Alabama abortion ban that was signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday. If the law were to go into effect, it would require that a doctor performing an abortion serve 99 years in prison, with no exception for rape or incest. But that’s the thing, it was never meant to go into effect. The all-white male signatories of the bill knew very well that this measure ran contrary to Roe v. Wade. As lawsuits mount against this law and other GOP anti-abortion laws around the country, all eyes are on the Supreme Court.
When it comes to foreign policy, President Trump is being guided by hawkish advisers and ignorance. National Security Adviser John Bolton appears hell-bent on manufacturing a conflict with Iran even as President Trump is reportedly reluctant. The costly trade war with China is being driven by President Trump’s ignorance of how tariffs work and his compulsive need for a fight. President Trump’s tariffs, and China’s retaliatory measures, are hurting the very same people that Trump claims to champion.
Next, we have the Trump Administration’s lawlessness and unprecedented stonewalling of Congress. President Trump is refusing to cooperate with every single subpoena House Democrats have issued and won’t cooperate with their over 20 investigations. Attorney General William Barr has been held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena. Meanwhile, Barr has launched an investigation into how the Russia investigation began. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has not only violated the law (No. 6103 in the tax code) by refusing to comply with the House Ways and Means Committee’s request for Trump’s tax returns, he has now refused to comply with a congressional subpoena.
As we know, the numerous investigations House Democrats launched have significant justification, in spite of President Trump’s protestations. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailed 10 key areas of obstruction of justice on the part of President Trump. Over 800 former federal prosecutors have said that President Trump would be indicted if it were not for the Office of Legal Counsel’s memo stating a sitting president cannot be indicted. And this weekend, Representative Justin Amash (R-MI-3) has said that Barr deliberately misled the public about Mueller’s report and that he believes the report revealed impeachable conduct on the part of President Trump. This the first Republican member of Congress to make such a claim.
As we await Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony and the Democratic presidential debates, the American people look to 2020 with anticipation.
Let’s dive into another Unpresidented week.
This comprehensive column sources great reporting from top news organizations, but it’s also built on brilliant analysis from my team at Rantt Media. We are independently-owned and take pride in being reader-funded so that we are beholden to you, not corporate interests. If you like the work we do, please consider supporting us by signing up for a monthly subscription. Below, you’ll see daily breakdowns that are derived from our exclusive Rantt Rundown newsletter, which you can subscribe to. You can also join our community chat:
Trump’s Tariff Ignorance
Day 844: Monday, May 13
Once again, President Trump’s ignorance is having a negative impact on Americans. Before last week, it appeared as if the United States and China may have been headed to a trade breakthrough. But as the Chinese delegation was arriving in Washington, the talks broke down.
By Friday, President Trump announced a new 25% tariff (up from 10%) on $200 billion worth of imports from China. The targeted goods include consumer products like luggage, backpacks, bamboo furniture, etc.
This week, China announced retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion in US goods set to be put in place on June 1st. China is targeting over 5,000 products, including food, building materials, electronics, natural resources, transports, and other consumer goods.
On Monday, the Dow closed 617 points down (2.4% drop). The Nasdaq took on a 3.4% drop and the S&P 500 closed down 2.4%. This was the worst one-day drop for the Dow and S&P 500 since January 3rd and the worst day since December for the Nasdaq.
President Trump, who once declared himself “Tariff Man,” took to Twitter and showcased his lack of knowledge when it comes to the primary tool in his trade war with Chinese President Xi Jinping:
There is no reason for the U.S. Consumer to pay the Tariffs, which take effect on China today. This has been proven recently when only 4 points were paid by the U.S., 21 points by China because China subsidizes product to such a large degree. Also, the Tariffs can be…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2019
…completely avoided if you buy from a non-Tariffed Country, or you buy the product inside the USA (the best idea). That’s Zero Tariffs. Many Tariffed companies will be leaving China for Vietnam and other such countries in Asia. That’s why China wants to make a deal so badly!…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2019
That’s not how this works. Some may argue that President Trump is lying, but this is legitimate ignorance. Trump has demonstrated again and again that he is incapable of understanding the consequences of tariffs. When you place tariffs on imports into the United States from China, you are placing a tax on those products. Businesses who need those products to manufacture their goods will have to charge more for their products to offset the losses. This means that consumers will inevitably take on the added costs. Even White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow conceded this point.
China’s retaliatory tariffs last year have hit specific industries very hard, like soybean farmers. The Trump administration had to issue $12 billion in aid to farmers after China’s tariffs took their toll. And now, Trump is promising new relief ahead China’s incoming tariffs.
In spite of those negative impacts, President Trump and the Republican Party have used farmers as pawns in this trade war even though many of them make up the Republican base. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) made it appear as if these farmers are willing participants in this trade war:
“There will be some sacrifice on the part of Americans, I grant you that. But also that sacrifice is pretty minimal compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas that are fallen heroes or laid to rest,” @SenTomCotton on trade war with China pic.twitter.com/lqlEZtaeBs
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) May 13, 2019
There are other industries affected of course. Steve Lamar, Executive Vice President of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, explained the negative impact Trump’s new tariffs will have on apparel in an interview with PBS NewsHour:
“Tariffs are taxes the Americans pay. They’re taxes that American companies pay. Ultimately, they’re taxes that consumers pay. And they’re taxes that result in job losses in the United States… If you realize that 82 percent of our backpacks and purses and travel goods come from China, 70 percent of our footwear comes from China, 42 percent of our apparel comes from China, when you tax these items, that is going to result in about a $500 increase for an average family of four.”
There will be a lot of uncertainty in the coming weeks. One can hope cooler heads will prevail, but judging by how this administration has operated, that isn’t likely.
In other news…
- The Washington Post: Before Trump’s purge at DHS, top officials challenged plan for mass family arrests
- The Washington Post: Supreme Court rules against Apple, allowing lawsuit targeting App Store to proceed
- Slate: The Supreme Court’s Liberals Are Warning Us That Roe v. Wade Is in Mortal Danger
- NBC News: Felicity Huffman tearfully pleads guilty in college admissions scandal
- The Washington Post: Omarosa requests to join lawsuit alleging women were underpaid by the Trump campaign
- The Washington Post: Pentagon will pull money from ballistic missile and surveillance plane programs to fund border wall
- CNN: Tracking the legal challenges to Trump’s emergency declaration
Lindsey Graham Is The Personification Of The GOP’s Decline
Day 845: Tuesday, May 14
“Article 3 of impeachment against Richard Nixon: the article was based on the idea that Richard Nixon, as president, failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress. Congress was going through its oversight function to provide oversight of the president… The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment…”
Is that quote from an impassioned House Democrat calling for President Trump to comply with their numerous subpoenas and over 20 investigations? No. That was Lindsey Graham in December of 1998, who at the time was a Republican representative of South Carolina’s 3rd district making the case for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. How times have changed.
Flash forward to 2019, and Lindsey Graham is a sitting Senator who is standing by a President who has vowed not to comply with every single subpoena House Democrats have sent his way. This week, Graham has advised Donald Trump Jr. to ignore a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee. #LindseyGrahamResign trended on Twitter after the news. The subpoena was issued by Graham’s Republican colleague Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (NC). Burr, who isn’t seeking re-election, has since been attacked by conservative media, like all Republicans who dare to show disloyalty to President Trump.
In other news…
- The New York Times: White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War
- The New York Times: Barr Assigns U.S. Attorney in Connecticut to Review Origins of Russia Inquiry
- Axios: Donald Trump Jr. strikes compromise with Senate Intel for testimony
- CNN: See conditions at McAllen Border Patrol station
- TIME: Trump’s Trade War With China Could Cost the Average Family Up to $2,300 a Year
- Ars Technica: AT&T promised 7,000 new jobs to get tax break—it cut 23,000 jobs instead
Support Independent Journalism
Day 846: Wednesday, May 15
Kaz Weida and Dr. Melissa Bird discuss Alabama’s abortion ban:
The past few weeks have dealt crushing blows to women’s reproductive rights as state legislatures have competed to see which red state could produce the most draconian legislation aimed at dismantling access to abortion. More than a dozen states so far in 2019 have attempted to pass laws that restrict abortion services and cripple an ever-dwindling number of clinics that provide reproductive healthcare for women.
Alabama’s law, HB 314, which passed the Senate last night and was signed into law today by Governor Kay Ivey, bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy. It’s been framed as the strictest abortion law because it does not include exceptions for rape or incest and punishes abortion doctors with a 99-year prison sentence. In fact, doctors who perform an abortion in Alabama in the case of rape or incest would face a longer prison sentence than the actual rapist.
Several other states have also passed so-called “heartbeat bills” similar to the one Governor Brian Kemp signed into law in Georgia earlier this month that ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected and punishes women who receive an abortion with prison time. These bills are essentially backdoor abortion bans since a heartbeat can be detected at 6 weeks, just two weeks after a woman would have missed her period, and long before many would know they were pregnant.
While this assault on women’s reproductive rights isn’t new, the aggressiveness of the bills that have passed in states like Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio have women across America asking if Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaiden’s Tale” is about to become reality. It’s looking less and less like dystopian fiction and increasingly painting a picture of what may happen to women when lines between politics and religion blur, slowly eroding bodily autonomy and choice. This campaign to force women into unsafe back-alley abortions will cost thousands of lives and leaves the precedent of Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for more than forty-five years, hanging in the balance.
In other news…
- NBC News: White House rejects House panel’s demands, says investigation amounts to ‘unauthorized do-over’ of Mueller probe
- The New York Times: Judge Signals Skepticism About Trump’s Bid to Block Subpoena for Financial Records
- The New York Times: Skeptical U.S. Allies Resist Trump’s New Claims of Threats From Iran
- CNBC: Trump declares national emergency over threats against US technology amid campaign against Huawei
- The Washington Post: White House declines to back Christchurch call to stamp out online extremism amid free speech concerns
- NBC News: Gov. DeSantis: Russians hacked voting databases in two Florida counties
- Axios: What we know about Kushner’s big immigration plan
- Bloomberg: Trump Tower Is Now One of NYC’s Least-Desirable Luxury Buildings
- Bloomberg: China Cuts U.S. Treasury Holdings to Lowest Level Since 2017
- NBC News: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce presidential bid
John Bolton’s Plan
Day 847: Thursday, May 16
National Security Adviser John Bolton’s hawkish stance on Iran has been well documented. Bolton’s calls for regime change in Iran long predate his tenure in the White House. When he was appointed by President Trump in April 2018, pundits and Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about what could come. Given the events in recent weeks, those concerns were warranted.
Bolton appears to have propelled President Trump’s foreign policy towards a conflict with Iran. Last Month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the US would designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard, an Iranian military branch, as a terrorist organization. On May 5th, the US sent an. aircraft carrier to the region, warning of potential attacks from Iran. On May 9th, The New York Times reported that upon Bolton’s request, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan presented plans for the potential deployment of 120,000 to the Middle East if Iran executed an attack. On May 15th, the US cited intelligence indicating that there is an impending threat from Iran and ordered an evacuation of the US embassy in Iraq. It’s important to note that US allies have said they see no impending threat. Even Republican members of Congress like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have expressed anger at how they’re being left in the dark on this intelligence.
This comes after Iran said earlier this month it would begin to withdraw from some components of the Iran Nuclear Deal, more officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), by enriching small amounts of uranium, This was all set in motion in 2018 when President Trump unjustifiably withdrew from the JCPOA. From there, we can see John Bolton’s grand scheme unfold.
As a candidate, Donald Trump promised he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Deal, more officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Under the terms of the deal, Iran would receive relief from economic sanctions in exchange for reducing Iran’s nuclear material and uranium enrichment. This was President Obama’s signature diplomatic achievement and took cooperation with the UN Security Council to pull it off. It was signed in 2015. Trump’s criticized the deal and alleged violations on the part of Iran, even as his own administration’s officials like then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis said none existed.
President Trump withdrew from the deal in May of 2018 – one month after John Bolton took H.R. McMaster’s position as National Security Adviser. It’s more accurate to say the Trump administration violated the JCPOA, because Iran was complying with the deal and was overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – who validated Iran’s compliance 9 separate times. The Trump administration then re-implemented sanctions on Iran. As Rantt Media’s Foreign Policy Editor Jossif Ezekilov outlined in his article at the time, this was a dangerous move:
In withdrawing from the deal, Trump has fulfilled a campaign promise but achieved little else. Worse, he has put America and the rest of the world in a much more precarious place. He has signaled to the rest of the world that US commitments are not to be trusted, which will render further diplomatic endeavors with any country all the more difficult.
Ezekilov went on to predict that this move would make negotiations with North Korea more difficult, which we saw was the case in both of the Trump-Kim summits. Ezekilov also mentioned that Iran would have the leeway to begin violating the JCPOA. In the immediate aftermath, Iran did not choose to violate the terms of the JCPOA and worked with the European signatories (UK, France, and Germany) to continue to receive the deal’s benefits even without America’s participation.
In response, President Trump threatened to sanction America’s own allies if they do business with Iran – mainly by purchasing Iranian oil which is the bedrock of their economy. These moves have crippled Iran’s economy thoroughly, causing them to get frustrated, triggering the events of this month. Given the fact he campaigned on avoiding frivolous wars, President Trump himself has reportedly grown frustrated with some of his more hawkish advisers and told Shanahan he does not want a war with Iran. But if President Trump was serious about avoiding conflict, he could fire National Security Adviser John Bolton at any time.
When you look at this holistically, it becomes clear that the goal was never to reduce Iran’s nuclear capacity. If the Trump administration wanted to do that, they would’ve stayed in the JCPOA. Bolton wanted an excuse to levy more sanctions on Iran, apply economic pressure on the country, and cause regime change by sparking an uprising among the Iranian people. We’ll see if President Trump comes around to John Bolton’s way of thinking as he remains the most unpopular president in the history of polling. As always, there is a tweet for everything.
In order to get elected, @BarackObama will start a war with Iran.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2011
In other news…
- NBC News: Flynn told Mueller people tied to Trump and Congress tried to obstruct probe
- Associated Press: Missouri Senate passes bill to ban abortions at 8 weeks
- The New York Times: Trump Immigration Plan Emphasizes Immigrants’ Skills Over Family Ties
- New York Daily News: Trump administration showers Brazilian crooks with $62M bailout money meant for struggling U.S. farmers
- NBC News: U.S. military to build 6 tent cities near border for migrants
- Politico: Trump’s pick for ICE director: I can tell which migrant children will become gang members by looking into their eyes
- The Washington Post: Trump pardons billionaire friend Conrad Black, who wrote a book about him
Support Independent Journalism
Day 848: Friday, May 17
On April 3, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) formally requested six years of President Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Rep. Neal used No. 6103 in the tax code. The New York Times explained at the time:
The provision, which dates in some form to the Teapot Dome scandal of Warren G. Harding’s administration, at least on its face gives the Trump administration little room to decline a request like Mr. Neal’s. It only says that the Treasury secretary “shall” furnish the information.
After signaling he would protect President Trump’s privacy, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin sent a letter to Chairman Neal rejecting his request for Trump’s tax returns. Mnuchin argued that Chairman Neal’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.” CNN analyst, and former FBI agent, Asha Rangappa argues that, “The legislative purpose of the law under which the Ways & Means Committee is requesting Trump’s tax returns was passed in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal — the entire purpose of the law is to have oversight over potential financial conflicts of public officials.”
Today, Mnuchin took his defiance a step further by refusing to comply with a subpoena from House Ways and Means.
President Trump has long used his debunked audit excuse as reasoning for not releasing his tax returns, but it’s clear there is an ulterior motive. President Trump’s history of fraudulent activity, both in his personal and business life, has been widely reported on and is currently under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. It’s clear why the President wants to keep these concealed.
In other news…
- NBC News: Federal appeals court rules against Trump on ending DACA
- Vox: Trump’s reckless “treason” accusation against the FBI, explained
- CNN: Lawmaker calls Barr’s interview on Fox News ‘stunning’
- The Hill: Barr considering possible rule changes at DOJ in wake of Russia investigation
- The Washington Post: Acting secretary blocked Stephen Miller’s bid for another DHS shakeup
- Mother Jones: Elizabeth Warren unveils plan to protect abortion rights
- Cory Booker in GQ: An Open Letter to Men on Abortion
- CNN: Bernie Sanders will call for ban on for-profit charter schools
- The New York Times: Ohio State Finds Team Doctor Sexually Abused 177 Students
- Rolling Stone: Leaked Documents Reveal ‘Mindboggling’ Spending at the National Rifle Association
- On Saturday, Republican Representative Justin Amash said President Trump committed impeachable offenses.
Here are my principal conclusions:
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 18, 2019
Rantt Media’s comprehensive articles source reporting from top news organizations, but they’re also built on brilliant analysis from our team. We are independently-owned and strive for quality, not clicks. We take pride in being reader-funded so that we are beholden to you, not corporate interests. If you like the work we do, please consider supporting us by signing up for our newsletter or joining our community chatroom where you can talk news with our team and other like-minded individuals: