A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 94th Unpresidented Week As POTUS
As Democrats win a diverse check on President Trump, he and his party are embracing their worst authoritarian impulses.
Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is a personification 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 94.
Since the last edition of Unpresidented, our nation’s leadership has become a few shades darker and significantly more female.
Over 115 million Americans turned out to vote, with record turnout among young voters in the midterm election. Over 100 women were elected to Congress, Governorships, and other statewide offices. Many of which were of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and age groups – bringing on historic firsts.
Ballots are still being counted. With each passing day, it seems another Democrat picks up a seat in the House as they close in 40 seats. Races we thought we knew the projected outcome of in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona were far from over. Florida has since moved to a recount for both the Senate and Gubernatorial races. Democratic Senate Candidate Kyrsten Sinema is continuing to widen her lead. And in the Georgia Gubernatorial race, Democrat Stacey Abrams is refusing to concede until every ballot has been counted.
Democrats have now locked in the biggest Democratic wave in the House since 1974. They also made massive gains in state legislatures. And there were under-discussed statewide blue surges in key states Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In a familiar story, Democrats won the popular vote in the Senate by 9 million, but they still lost seats. Why? Because the Constitution gives low populated states the same level of representation as states with 10x the population. That is a story for another day.
The story for today is that in spite of the narratives coming out of Tuesday night, there was indeed a blue wave. It was built on a foundation of women and people of color and taken over the edge by the suburbs. The Kavanaugh effect was real as the gender gap was women skewed in Democrats’ favor. And with that, Democrats finally have a check on a President who has overt authoritarian tendencies.
The other story is the fact that rural white voters, especially men, vote for Republicans in a monolith. As the people who reject Trump leave the party, mostly loyalists remain. Gaslit by Fox News (which has essentially become a state-run propaganda organization) as their primary news source and fear mongering from the party and its leader, its no wonder the GOP base votes in unison. The Republican Party’s decades-long Southern Strategy of racial scapegoating proved effective for them in the Senate this time, but the map is not as favorable to them come 2020. This is on top of the fact the GOP is shrinking as they churn suburban whites, all while the Democrats are widening their electorate.
Nonetheless, challenges are ahead. As we’ve seen this week, President Trump is willing to go to any lengths to achieve self-preservation. Even if it means appointing a Mueller-hating sycophant to be Attorney General or falsely claiming Democrats are stealing elections. These claims, on top of the brazen voter suppression and gerrymandering we’ve seen, makes it clear the Russians didn’t need to interfere in the midterms to undermine Americans’ faith in their democracy because Republicans are doing a good job of that themselves. Given these undemocratic challenges, Democrats will need to work extra hard to overcome them.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s legal troubles are mounting as it becomes even more clear he is an unindicted co-conspirator with his former fixer Michael Cohen in campaign finance crimes.
Even with President Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting Attorney General, it may be too late to stop Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
And while California faced a historic, deadly fire, Trump failed yet another test of his leadership.
Let’s dive into another wildly consequential week.
Day 655: Monday, November 5
The Day Before Tomorrow
“Immigrants are taking your jobs”
The @GOP‘s decades-long Southern Strategy is on the ballot
They cut taxes for the rich and tell their base minorities are to blame for their economic problems
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) November 5, 2018
Over 30 million people had voted early. Anticipation was high ahead of election day. President Trump’s fear mongering rhetoric had hit its peak and Republicans were pulling out all the stops to suppress the vote. Specifically, there was Brian Kemp in Georgia who came up with a last-minute bogus claim that Democrats were trying to hack voter registration systems.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: Voter Suppression, Voting Machine Glitches, And GOP Racism Mounts Ahead Of Election Day
- Rantt Media: Millennials. Here’s Our Chance To Take The Torch From Boomers.
- Vanity Fair: “I’M VERY WORRIED ABOUT DON JR.”: FORGET THE MIDTERMS—WEST WING INSIDERS BRACE FOR THE MUELLER STORM
- NBC News: Intelligence officials: No evidence of any attempts to tamper with midterm election systems
- Politico: Voting machine errors already roil Texas and Georgia races
- CREW: IVANKA TRUMP’S BUSINESS WINS APPROVAL FOR 16 NEW CHINESE TRADEMARKS DESPITE SHUTTING DOWN
- The Washington Post: Trump administration prepares for massive shake-up after midterms
- The New York Times: Trump Administration Spares Corporate Wrongdoers Billions in Penalties
- CNBC: Trump’s border deployments could cost $220 million as Pentagon sees no threat from migrant caravan
Day 656: Tuesday, November 6
At first, given the underperformance in Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky’s 6th district, there was high anxiety. But as the night progressed, things started to turn as the first (although expected) flip of the night came in.
Jennifer Wexton has just defeated Barbara Comstock by a large margin.
She’s the first Democrat to win Virginia’s 10th district in nearly 40 years.
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) November 7, 2018
You’ve likely heard several takes on the election so far but I’d like to highlight what I think was a microcosm of the broader national winds. The flipping of Virginia’s 7th district was one of the most fascinating to me. Old fashioned Republican, and 2nd most powerful in the House, Eric Cantor lost to Tea Party Republican David Brat in 2014 because they charged Cantor was not tough enough on trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As we saw this year, Democrat Abigail Spanberger won this district riding a Democratic wave that was largely opposed the GOP’s handling of healthcare.
In 2018, Democrats won on the issue that lost them their majorities in 2010 and 2014. This was led by soon to be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who led Democrats to run an issue focused campaign and let the anti-Trump sentiment be the foundation of the wave rather than the focus.
Aside from what I outlined in the intro, Tuesday was filled with historic firsts.
The 2018 midterms have already brought a wave of historic wins:
-First Muslim women in Congress
-First Native American women in Congress
-Youngest woman ever elected to Congress
-First openly gay man elected US governor
-First woman governor of Guamhttps://t.co/qlAdKgIql7
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) November 7, 2018
And what is truly giving the Trump administration nerves is the simple fact that they will no longer be able to conduct themselves unchecked by the Legislative Branch.
The Ethics Committee Chair
The Judiciary Committee Chair
The Oversight Committee Chair
The Intelligence Committee Chair
The Ways And Means Committee Chair
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) November 7, 2018
You can track the races that are too close to call here.
Also, fine, if you insist, here’s a photo of me after I voted.
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) November 6, 2018
In other news…
- CNBC: Florida restores voting rights to more than 1 million former felons
- The Hill: Anti-gay marriage country clerk Kim Davis loses reelection in Kentucky
- CNN: GOP congressman, who once lamented not being able to call women ‘sluts,’ loses to a woman
- The Washington Post: Two more associates of Roger Stone testify before Mueller grand jury
- Politico: Facebook suspends 115 accounts for ‘inauthentic behavior’ as polls open
- CNN: Joint Chiefs chair says soldiers will not be involved in denying border entry to migrants
- NPR: White House Asks Supreme Court To Rule On DACA Sooner, Not Later
Day 657: Wednesday, November 7
The Lede: President Trump has just taken the most aggressive action yet in his effort to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
After months of verbal attacks and frustration over his recusal from the Russia investigation, President Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed Sessions’ Chief of staff Matthew Whitaker to take his place until a permanent replacement is announced.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who President Trump has long considered firing, has reportedly been removed from overseeing the probe and also may resign within the next 48 hours. Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has said Whitaker’s appointment may have violated the law. Whitaker, who has been very critical of Mueller’s probe in the past, will now be overseeing the most important federal investigation of our time.
Whitaker has said that Trump stopping the Mueller probe would be constitutional, called Mueller an unaccountable prosecutor, said the probe has gone too far in a CNN op-ed about how Trump’s finances should be off limits, and shared this tweet:
— Matt Whitaker 🇺🇸 (@MattWhitaker46) August 7, 2017
Whitaker also made this claim which is oddly specific to his newfound role:
Matthew Whitaker on @CNN, July 26, 2017: “I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced, it would recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) November 7, 2018
Whitaker also has ties to Sam Clovis, fueling Democrats’ calls for his recusal:
Whaddaya know: Mark Whitaker, now in charge of the Mueller investigation, chaired the 2014 campaign of Sam Clovis, a grand jury witness in that investigation. https://t.co/NzUkgjwOp1
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) November 7, 2018
And one more thing: Whitaker wrote an op-ed in USA TODAY titled “I would indict Hillary Clinton.”
As Natasha Bertrand of The Atlantic points out, the timing is suspect given how Mueller is likely to move again soon:
Whitaker—who apparently feels very strongly about protecting Trump’s business dealings—is replacing Sessions at a moment when Donald Trump Jr., the executive VP of the Trump Org, is reportedly bracing for a Mueller indictment. https://t.co/outUebEVE6 https://t.co/JMuyklthgl
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) November 7, 2018
The Context: The firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wide-ranging ramifications for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation because his replacement will have the power to shut down the probe, a power Sessions no longer has. President Trump has repeatedly expressed his disdain for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. President Trump has reportedly asked Sessions to un-recuse on multiple occasions, and he’s publicly said that if he knew Sessions would recuse himself, he wouldn’t have nominated him. And on Twitter, President Donald Trump has given what appeared to be the closest thing to a public order to end Mueller’s investigation by saying Sessions “should stop” the investigation. And now, President Trump has finally acted on those words.
As this is occurring, it’s important to put this in perspective with the other federal investigations and lawsuits plaguing Trump:
- Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, potential conspiracy with the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice
- The Southern District of New York’s investigation into Trump’s former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen (which Rosenstein and Mueller sparked by passing their findings over to them, leading to Trump becoming an unindicted co-conspirator in illegal hush money payments)
- The Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into the Trump Organization
- The New York Attorney General’s investigation into the Trump Foundation
- Emoluments clause lawsuits
- Summer Zervos’ lawsuit
The Analysis: Trump’s obsession with Sessions’ recusal is of interest to Mueller in his obstruction of justice probe. Mueller is also examining Trump’s tweets about Jeff Sessions. Let’s break down why Trump’s obsession, and his latest move to fire Sessions, could be incriminating:
Jeff Sessions was nominated for Attorney General in November 2016…that was before the public was aware the Russia investigation even existed and before FBI Director James Comey revealed the Trump campaign was under investigation. So, what President Trump is essentially saying is that he wouldn’t have nominated Sessions for Attorney General if he knew he wouldn’t protect him from an investigation the public didn’t know existed yet. If President Trump’s claim is true, it appears that Trump was aware there was underlying wrongdoing in his campaign that he expected Sessions to cover up. Otherwise, his claim wouldn’t make sense.
And now, with the firing of Sessions and apparent interference in the Justice Department’s handling of the Russia investigation, legal experts are claiming this is more evidence of obstruction of justice.
Overall, this adds to the case Mueller is building. Trump’s intention has long been clear, by his own admission, that he wants the Russia investigation to come to an end. Trump has long known that it would be politically toxic to fire Rosenstein or attempt to fire Mueller, so he appears to see replacing Sessions as a backdoor way to obstruct the probe. The replacement AG could limit Mueller’s scope, decide how to handle Mueller’s reports, or shut down the probe outright. The fact that Senate Republicans are surrendering to Trump’s ousting of Sessions means they’re capitulating to Trump’s interference in the Justice Department and are complicit in his coverup. Democrats, on the other hand, have some plans of their own.
In other news…
- After President Trump attacked Republicans who lost their seats in the election in an unhinged press conference, he escalated his war on the press.
WOW — Trump unloads on Jim Acosta, says “CNN should be ashamed of themselves having you working for them. You are rude, terrible person. You should not be working for CNN.” pic.twitter.com/NIFaauBlGR
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 7, 2018
This is a brazen escalation in the White House’s war against press freedom
Not only did they ban Jim Acosta, they blatantly lied about footage we all saw with our own eyes
This Orwellian, authoritarian-like attack on the fourth estate should be met with solidarity and resolve https://t.co/pnnffbJQFv
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) November 8, 2018
- The Washington Post: Newly empowered, House Democrats plan to launch immediate investigations of Trump, but leaders are wary of impeachment
- The Washington Post: Trump administration issues rules letting some employers deny contraceptive coverage
Day 658: Thursday, November 8
This video is doctored. It’s slowed down and then sped up at the moment Acosta’s hand comes down to make it look like he’s doing a karate chop or something. This is shameful propaganda. It’s Orwellian. https://t.co/in8m3iHn18
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) November 8, 2018
Yes, the White House press office is sharing a manipulated video that makes it appear that Acosta was menacing the intern when he was not and did not. The intern reached over Acosta to grab the microphone while he was trying to ask another q and Acosta tried to pull away. https://t.co/2cqjHSYmr4
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 8, 2018
I want to spend some time talking about the truly Orwellian method in which the White House banned CNN’s Jim Acosta from covering the White House. Not to mention, they sourced the video from Infowars.
With advances in technology, the Trump administration’s continued distortion of reality for their voters brings on some starting prospects.
I’ve been worried about deep fake tech for some time and the White House just proved they are willing to use doctored footage to justify their decisions—so watch out
They’re acting more like a Soviet-style disinformation operation every day, & it will only get worse https://t.co/tbRUPZXEs4
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) November 8, 2018
Deep fake technology allows for some disturbingly realistic video editing. It can make people appear to say things they aren’t saying. If the Trump administration is willing to use fake footage to justify yet another attack on the first amendment, what else would they be willing to justify?
In other news…
- NBC News: Mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California
- CNN: Trump reviewing his answers to Mueller as he changes who oversees the Russia investigation
- Politico: Mueller has powerful new House allies as he bears down on Trump
- The Washington Post: Trump’s installation of acting AG was unconstitutional, argues husband of Kellyanne Conway
- Reuters: U.S. appeals court rules against Trump on DACA immigration program
- The New York Times: Sessions, in Last-Minute Act, Sharply Limits Use of Consent Decrees to Curb Police Abuses
- The New York Times: Justice Ginsburg Leaves Hospital After Treatment for Broken Ribs
- NPR: Kavanaugh Accuser Christine Blasey Ford Continues Receiving Threats, Lawyers Say
Day 659: Friday, November 9
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just published the most incriminating piece of journalism about Donald Trump in the entirety of his presidency. U.S. Attorneys in the Manhattan Office have discovered evidence that appears to confirm the President is implicated in the crimes Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen has already pleaded guilty to.
In an article built on a foundation of 36 sources, court papers, and corporate records, the WSJ reveals in meticulous detail the story of how Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, and David Pecker of American Media, Inc. silenced the stories of multiple women who had damaging info on the 2016 presidential candidate.
Like many incriminating stories about this president, the saga starts in a Trump Tower meeting. In the 2015 meeting, Donald Trump asked David Pecker how he could help him with his presidential campaign. Pecker reportedly offered to buy women’s silence if they tried to go public with allegations of sexual encounters with Trump. In 2016, Trump acted on that offer.
The WSJ report outlines how, upon Trump’s request, the National Enquirer paid former Playboy Model Karen McDougal $150,000 to purchase and suppress the story about her 2006 affair with Donald Trump. The payment was made in August 2016. The WSJ broke the story of the original payment on November 4, 2016. When then-Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks was reached out to for comment, she said they had no knowledge of this payment and denied the affair. That was clearly a lie.
There was a series of meetings and developments that led up to the payment, and Cohen reportedly kept Trump in the loop every step of the way. Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen recorded a tape in Septemeber 2016 where Donald Trump discussed purchasing the rights to McDougal’s story from the National Enquirer and “all the stuff,” which appeared to signal there were other stories to purchase. It was released by CNN.
And when it came to Stormy Daniels, David Pecker reportedly refused Cohen’s request because “he didn’t want his company to pay a porn star.” After Cohen’s failed attempt to get Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg to make it a payment from the company, Cohen made the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy himself. The WSJ goes on to detail the reimbursement plan:
Had he just paid the ex-adult film star himself, Mr. Trump would have been out of pocket $130,000. Instead, Mr. Weisselberg authorized a reimbursement of twice that much, characterized in Mr. Trump’s records as legal fees, to cover the income tax hit Mr. Cohen would take. He also added a $60,000 bonus. Mr. Cohen received the money in monthly installments of $35,000.
This story was pieced together by federal prosecutors after Michael Cohen entered into a guilty plea as part of the criminal investigation being conducted by federal investigators in the Southern District of New York (SDNY). Cohen was being probed for over $20 million in bank fraud and violating election law by trying to suppress damaging information about then-candidate Donald Trump. The investigation into Cohen came after Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred evidence of wrongdoing he discovered to the SDNY.
The guilty plea admitted to 8 counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations. Long story short, 2 of those counts on campaign violations involved Trump, according to Cohen’s plea. In a nutshell, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to criminal conduct that took place in coordination with Donald Trump and in an effort to influence the results of the 2016 election.
After the plea agreement, reports revealed both Pecker and Weisselberg were granted immunity by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. And as we see in the WSJ report, they appeared to have given up the goods and corroborated Cohen’s guilty plea.
That being said, his knowledge of the payments itself, and effort to influence the election with in-kind campaign contributions, doesn’t necessarily make the case airtight as the WSJ goes on to detail:
Mr. Trump’s involvement in the payments, by itself, wouldn’t mean he is guilty of federal crimes, according to Richard Hasen, a law professor at University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law. A criminal conviction would require proof Mr. Trump willfully skirted legal prohibitions on contributions from companies or from individuals in excess of $2,700, he said.
But, as Former Obama Administration Ethics Czar points out, the piece goes on to details an additional criminal aspect.
An important aspect of the excellent new investigative piece by the Wall St J is about to be overlooked. This part establishes that Trump committed a felony when he knowingly omitted his debt to Michael Cohen from his June 2017 financial disclosure report.https://t.co/AudW4F2HLF pic.twitter.com/F579ZNxOI3
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 9, 2018
It’s unclear exactly what the Manhattan Office will do next but given the newfound threats to his probe, the brilliance of Mueller’s move to pass the Cohen investigation to U.S. Attorneys in New York continues to bear fruit. Needless to say, the incoming Democratically controlled House of Representatives will take a keen interest in this.
In other news…
- NBC News: Trump claims he hasn’t spoken with Whitaker about Mueller probe
- ABC News: Trump signs order denying asylum-seeking, illegal border crossers
- CNBC: Trump is telling people he wants to replace Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross by the end of the year
- The Washington Post: Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, saying Trump administration review ignored ‘inconvenient’ climate change facts
- CNN: President Trump threatens to pull more reporters’ credentials
- President Trump continued to attack the press.
I swear to god, give me White House press credentials.
I’m tired of watching this overconfident con man verbally abuse reporters.
I don’t have to worry about getting fired by my own publication I co-founded.
Would’ve jumped to her defense in a heartbeat and not minced words. https://t.co/pmPNo8C4Zn
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) November 9, 2018
- A reminder of the Southern Strategy.
See how Trump stopped hollering about the caravan post-midterms?
The Southern Strategy. Racist fear mongering to stir up the base while governing for the wealth
If you’re a Trump supporter, I hope you watch this clip
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) November 8, 2018
Veteran’s Day Weekend
Words fail me. This is the Woolsey Fire approaching Malibu as people desparately are trying to evacuate on PCH. pic.twitter.com/rdJGvbu7kN
— Spin Doctor (@SpinDr) November 9, 2018
As California grappled with the tragic fire, President Trump felt it would be prudent to threaten the state.
People and animals are dead or missing
Thousands have evacuated, including one of Rantt’s team members and his family
Thousands of acres of land and homes have burned
And instead of comforting words, you threaten to cut off funding?
You sir, are cruelhttps://t.co/RWMCkmvcrl
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) November 10, 2018
We have a president who threatens victims of disasters as they’re still unfolding because their state didn’t vote for him, and still has 44% approval.
I left my home to escape the #CaliforniaFires and woke up to him threatening my state.
This is not how civilized nations work. https://t.co/qSo6Cm2a4f
— Greg Fish (@GregAFish) November 10, 2018
We’re currently getting our home ready to take in friends who don’t know if their house is going to make it.
Thousands have evacuated. People have died.
And this is what POTUS offers?
— Remy Carreiro (@Remy_Anne) November 10, 2018
Oh, and the President was in France.
Imagine how Right Wing media & GOP leaders would react if Obama cancelled visit to cemetery to honor fallen due to a little rain, while other world leaders did attend, on Veterans’ Day Weekend, no less. Then, listen to the sound of hypocritical silence as Trump did just that. SMH https://t.co/I6DPZt1Pxd
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) November 11, 2018
Get you someone that looks at you the way the President of the United States looks at the dictator that attacked American democracy. https://t.co/8gDlJWbdw5
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) November 11, 2018