A Complete Breakdown Of Donald Trump’s 68th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

President Donald Trump is introduced to speak to U.S. military troops at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Sigonella, Italy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A Complete Breakdown Of Donald Trump’s 68th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

This is America

Willing to turn on its allies at a moment’s notice.

Making consequential foreign policy decisions based on a foundation of lies.

Eager to decimate a decade’s worth of diplomacy to fulfill a campaign promise.

Its leader consumed in counterintelligence, corruption, and ethics investigations and is hell-bent on obstructing those investigations.

Deprioritizing human rights, pushing policies that harm the most vulnerable, and flooding the judiciary with judges who hold regressive views.

This is America.

Donald Trump is our president. We elected him. Yes, he reflects our worst impulses, but we elected him nonetheless. Those who opposed him fought their hardest, but the rest of America fell for the con, and therefore, he is a reflection of what America is at the moment.

Unreliable. Unpredictable. Unhinged.

Trump’s supporters elected him with their votes and the Americans who didn’t vote elected him with their complacency.

But America is also the millions of Americans who are protesting, the surge of women candidates, and the young activists eager to reshape America for the better.

This is America…at least for right now. And in order to change it, we have to own up to it. The good and the bad.

The beauty of America is that despite who we are today, we collectively decide who we will be tomorrow.

Before we dive into this wild week of news, I leave you with one word:

Vote.

68th Weekend

Unhinged

Michael Cohen (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

The New York Times published a must-read report about Michael Cohen’s background, including his business dealings with Russians and Ukrainians, taxi medallions, and some behavior that sounds like textbook money laundering:

Like many of Mr. Cohen’s business dealings, the transactions were unconventional. His companies would buy a building, often in cash. Soon after, they would flip the building in another all-cash deal for four or five times the previous purchase price. The buyer was generally another limited liability company.

In October 2011, for example, a limited liability company listing as its address Mr. Cohen’s apartment at Trump Park Avenue purchased a building on Rivington Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for $2.1 million. In 2014, Mr. Cohen sold the building for $10 million in cash — nearly five times what he paid three years earlier.

That same day, Mr. Cohen sold three other Manhattan buildings, also entirely for cash. In total, the four buildings sold for $32 million — nearly triple what Mr. Cohen had paid for them in the span of no more than three years.

Meanwhile…

  • Gina Haspel’s CIA Director nomination appeared to be up in the air.

  • The Washington Post published a deep dive into some President Trump’s business dealings.

  • The Guardian published a truly troubling report:

Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observercan reveal.

People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was involved in earlier efforts to restrict Iranian weapons, said: “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”

  • Rudy Giuliani said some startling things about Iran.

Giuliani went on Fox News’ Judge Jeanine and made claims that once again tied the Stormy Daniels payment to the Trump campaign…

  • After a week filled with Kanye West disappointing the black community, Donald Glover did the opposite with a hilarious appearance on SNL and a revolutionary new song.

Day 473: Monday, May 7

Decency > Tribalism

On Monday, four women — two on the record: Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam — accused New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) of intense domestic abuse — both physically and emotionally.

It was one of the most detailed and corroborated series of domestic abuse allegations I have ever read. Not only were the allegations corroborated by friends of the accusers (including Salman Rushdie), there were medical records and other documentation of the abuse. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) called for Schneiderman to resign. By the end of the night, his resignation was submitted.

The allegations are horrific. Schneiderman, who in 2010 introduced a bill creating penalties for strangulation after chairing a committee on domestic abuse, is being accused of choking, slapping, and engaging in coercive emotional abuse. Schneiderman treated these women — who he had romantic relationships with — like property. The report was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who broke the Harvey Weinstein story Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer of The New Yorker:

Now Schneiderman is facing a reckoning of his own. As his prominence as a voice against sexual misconduct has risen, so, too, has the distress of four women with whom he has had romantic relationships or encounters. They accuse Schneiderman of having subjected them to nonconsensual physical violence. All have been reluctant to speak out, fearing reprisal. But two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have talked to The New Yorker on the record, because they feel that doing so could protect other women. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent. Manning Barish and Selvaratnam categorize the abuse he inflicted on them as “assault.” They did not report their allegations to the police at the time, but both say that they eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face, and also choked. Selvaratnam says that Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped, and both say that he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. (Schneiderman’s spokesperson said that he “never made any of these threats.”)

A third former romantic partner of Schneiderman’s told Manning Barish and Selvaratnam that he also repeatedly subjected her to nonconsensual physical violence, but she told them that she is too frightened of him to come forward. (The New Yorker has independently vetted the accounts that they gave of her allegations.) A fourth woman, an attorney who has held prominent positions in the New York legal community, says that Schneiderman made an advance toward her; when she rebuffed him, he slapped her across the face with such force that it left a mark that lingered the next day. She recalls screaming in surprise and pain, and beginning to cry, and says that she felt frightened. She has asked to remain unidentified, but shared a photograph of the injury with The New Yorker.

Schneiderman has tried to position himself as an ally in the #MeToo movement, making this development wildly hypocritical and makes one wonder how he could live with himself knowing the things he had done.

Speaking of hypocrisy, I want to address/debunk some of the immediate reaction to this news. On social media, a few on the left tried to express disbelief over these allegations leveled against Schneiderman. They are citing his involvement in the New York State investigations of Trump’s associates, claiming that this is somehow engineered. I don’t see how anyone could read that report in its entirety and believe that is the case.

Regardless of what happens to Schneiderman, the state investigations will go on, and a new Attorney General will be appointed. The logic just doesn’t make sense.

Who are we if we decide that just because someone is of the same political affiliation as us, they are somehow less guilty than, say, Donald Trump, Rob Porter, or Roy Moore.

Blindly defending someone simply because they have a (D) next to their name is the same kind of behavior that has turned the Republican Party into a cult-like base of fact-averse individuals who defend an indecent President no matter what he says or does.

Sexual assault, domestic abuse, or any kind of violence against women is not acceptable. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Bill Cosby — abuse is abuse.

As we’ve seen with how quickly Democratic leadership denounced Schneiderman, they are far different than the GOP who still support President Trump (who has over 16 sexual misconduct accusers) and backed alleged pedophile Roy Moore.

Hypocrisy and harboring perpetrators doesn’t look good on liberals.

Leave that to the GOP.

Meanwhile…

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to take a tougher approach to some families who enter the U.S. illegally by separating parents from their children, instead of keeping them in detention together.

“If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday at a law enforcement conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Administration officials explained that the goal of the program is 100 percent prosecution of all who enter the U.S. illegally. When adults are prosecuted and jailed, their children will be separated from them, just as would happen for a U.S. citizen convicted and jailed.

  • President Trump spent his morning sending paranoid tweets about the Russia investigation.

  • President Trump is reportedly souring on Rudy Giuliani. Politico reported:

President Donald Trump has shaken up his legal team in the last three weeks — and he’s still not happy.

The president has been griping to associates that Rudy Giuliani, his new personal attorney, has failed to shut down the Stormy Daniels hush money saga. And he has expressed frustration that Giuliani’s media appearances are raising more questions than they are answering, turning the story into a days-long drama capped by the admission Sunday that the president may have made similar payments to other women.

Speaking of Giuliani…

  • President Trump reportedly had a tough time focusing in Mueller interview prep…

  • Devin Nunes continued to be a pawn of the White House:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes warned Sunday that he plans to urge lawmakers “this week” to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for failing to hand over classified materials related to the Russia investigation.

But the Justice Department informed Nunes three days ago — on the deadline for responding to a subpoena from Nunes’ committee — that providing the information on a “specific individual” could pose grave implications for national security, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

  • Melania Trump promoted her “Be Best” campaign, which allegedly is set to help children and combat cyberbullying…

And continued plagiarizing…

  • As his wife was talking about helping children, The Washington Post reported that President Trump plans to cut CHIP funding:

President Trump is sending a plan to Congress that calls for stripping more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with the hope that it will temper conservative angst over ballooning budget deficits.

Almost half of the proposed cuts would come from two accounts within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that White House officials said expired last year or are not expected to be drawn upon.

The proposed cuts to CHIP would come in part from cutting $5 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Fund, to help reimburse states for certain expenses. But the White House said the ability to use this money expired in September, meaning it can’t be legally used, even as it remains on the government’s balance sheet.

  • It appeared Tuesday would be quite the day…

It was.

Day 474: Tuesday, May 8

An Irrational Violation
President Donald Trump walks towards Marine One as he departs from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, to spend the weekend at Camp David in Maryland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump walks towards Marine One as he departs from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, to spend the weekend at Camp David in Maryland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

When it comes to foreign policy, President Donald Trump has proven to be a drunken bull in a China shop. And with every isolationist move he’s made, Trump further proves it really is China’s shop. From withdrawing from the TPP (which the Trump administration later discussed reentering) to withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord (which the Trump administration later discussed reentering), President Trump is willing to reduce America’s global influence to fulfill campaign promises. And today was no different. Just when President Trump is presented with a rare opportunity to pursue a diplomatic accord with North Korea, his compulsion for self-sabotage damages his efforts.

Rantt Media’s Foreign Affairs Editor Jossif Ezekilov reported:

On Tuesday, President Trump decided to undo a decade’s worth of diplomacy and withdraw the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement intended to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He did this in typical Trumpian fashion: without much precedent, against the wishes of the US’ most trusted allies and his most competent advisers, and with no clear plan to replace what he is endeavoring to destroy. The withdrawal will have wide-ranging implications on peace in the region, nuclear proliferation in general, and how US foreign policy is viewed by others for the rest of Trump’s time in office.

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.

Chief among them is talks with North Korea. The Trump administration believes their aggressive rhetoric brought North Koreans to the negotiating table, and believe this will happen with Tehran as well. Fat chance. Withdrawing from the JCPOA only makes the regime of Kim Jong Un all the more distrustful of dialogue with the US, putting a legitimate resolution out of reach. They will doubtless seek assurances more binding than the Iran deal, which would be politically impossible for the US government to accept. Any positive momentum produced by both sides up until now is fast eroding just as talks are approaching.

President Trump’s lie-filled announcement misrepresented the purpose of the deal, claiming that the agreement bolstered Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Not only did Trump announce new sanctions on Iran, it appears this will also affect our allies…

In a rare post-presidency rebuke, President Barack Obama chimed in.

This sentiment was echoed throughout the United States.

After this decision, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani immediately directed his diplomats to negotiate a deal with European countries, Russia, and China.

This does little to aid us and throws a wrench in our future talks with North Korea. Couple this with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton saying they are going for the Libya model with North Korea (which ended in Gaddafi being killed by his own people), why would Kim Jong Un trust our word?

Meanwhile…

  • If President Trump wasn’t hell-bent on flipping the international order on its head, this would be leading Tuesday. Stephanie Clifford’s lawyer Michael sent the following tweet…

A lot of this bled into the next day so more on that in a bit…

  • Senior White House staffers are urging President Trump to fire EPA Director Scott Pruitt.

The Washington Post published a report that paints Devin Nunes’ efforts to extort the Justice Department as arguably treacherous.

Last Wednesday, senior FBI and national intelligence officials relayed an urgent message to the White House: Information being sought by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes could endanger a top-secret intelligence source.

Top White House officials, with the assent of President Trump, agreed to back the decision to withhold the information. They were persuaded that turning over Justice Department documents could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion and the person’s role.

Day 475: Wednesday, May 9

All The President’s Stooges
Donald Trump’s Fixer Michael Cohen (Reuters) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Donald Trump’s Fixer Michael Cohen (Reuters) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA)

There are two main stories that need to be covered before we dive into the rest of Wednesday’s news. Michael Cohen’s alleged pay-to-play schemes and Devin Nunes’ apparent willingness to expose a U.S. Intelligence source of the CIA and FBI in his never-ending effort to undermine the Russia investigation. But first, we start with Michael Cohen…

It all started on Tuesday with that tweet from Stephanie Clifford’s (Stormy Daniels) lawyer.

As The Atlantic put it, Avenatti’s tweet merged the “two biggest scandals of Donald Trump’s presidency in a single tweet.” Avenatti then sent out a summary of his findings, which found over $4 million moved through a shell company of Michael Cohen’s. The Treasury Department’s Inspector General is investigating if this info was leaked. Avenatti’s claims were later corroborated by multiple outlets, The New York Times.

A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

Among the previously unreported transactions were payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement on Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.

Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who is under U.S. sanctions, was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about this payment.

As you can see, Columbus Nova wasn’t the only entity who submitted payments through this shell company. It was later revealed that telecommunications company AT&T and pharmaceutical company Novartis made similar payments, in alleged pay-to-play schemes.

It was revealed on Wednesday that Novartis paid Cohen $1.2 million after Cohen approached them offering access to the incoming Trump administration. AT&T made their payments seeking “insights” into the administration. Special Counsel Robert Mueller questioned both companies about these payments last November, proving he is 20 steps ahead of all of us.

This flow of money raises questions. As we know, Cohen reportedly obtained $774,000 through a home-equity line of credit. Cohen paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) in October 2016 to keep her quiet about her 2006 affair with Donald Trump. As part of the criminal investigation being conducted by federal investigators in the Southern District of New York, Cohen is being probed for potential bank fraud and potentially violating election law by trying to suppress damning information about then-candidate Donald Trump.

Question is, how was all this money spent?

Now, we turn to Devin Nunes.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have been locked in a battle with the Justice Department about unredacted documents pertaining to the Russia investigation for weeks, and yesterday a concerning report dropped from The Washington Post.

Last Wednesday, senior FBI and national intelligence officials relayed an urgent message to the White House: Information being sought by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes could endanger a top-secret intelligence source.

Top White House officials, with the assent of President Trump, agreed to back the decision to withhold the information. They were persuaded that turning over Justice Department documents could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion and the person’s role.

Also last Wednesday…

Today, CNN reported that “Devin Nunes and fellow GOP committee member Trey Gowdy have been invited to the Justice Department for a classified briefing Thursday about the latest document request related to the Russia investigation.” This came after House Speaker Paul Ryan chimed in on Nunes’ side, saying that the DOJ should comply with their requests, in spite of the risks.

Although Nunes denied that his committee is seeking information about this source, the facts beg to differ.

From his manufactured unmasking scandal to his widely debunked memo, Nunes has been a useful tool through which the White House has tried to undermine the Russia investigation. Important to point out up front the fact that Devin Nunes was on the Trump transition team, which is a subject of the Russia investigation. So any move taken by Nunes to undermine this investigation is arguably an attempt to undermine an investigation into an operation he was a member of.

Meanwhile…

  • After CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel faced intense questioning from the Senate Intelligence Committee over her history of overseeing torture, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) called on the Senate to reject her nomination.
  • Three Americans were freed by North Korea and sent home with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • The Daily Beast reported:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has spoken with Blackwater founder Erik Prince, two sources familiar with the matter tell The Daily Beast. It was not immediately clear what questions Mueller’s team had or what information Prince shared with the special counsel.

Prince attended a now-controversial meeting with the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund in the Seychelles on Jan. 11, 2017 — just over a week before Inauguration Day. The Washington Post reported that Mueller is interested in potential efforts at the Seychelles meeting to set up a backchannel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin.

  • Tensions continued to rise in the aftermath of President Trump’s decision to violate the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal. The Guardian reported:

Arch-enemies Iran and Israel have appeared to edge closer to all-out war after Israel’s military said its positions in the Golan Heights were hit with a barrage of Iranian rockets, prompting it to respond with extensive strikes targeting Tehran’s forces across Syria.

The attack, if confirmed, would mark the first time Iran has fired rockets in a direct strike on Israeli forces, dramatically ratcheting up what has for years been a conflict fought through proxies.
Several but not all of the Iranian rockets were intercepted by Israeli defences, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, told reporters.

President Donald Trump’s national security team is weighing the elimination of the top White House cybersecurity job, multiple sources told POLITICO — a move that would come as the nation faces growing digital threats from adversaries such as Russia and Iran.

John Bolton, Trump’s hawkish new national security adviser, is leading the push to abolish the role of special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator, currently held by the departing Rob Joyce, according to one current and two former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the discussions.

  • This Senate report is from Tuesday, but given that Bolton news, we have to include here. The New York Times reported:

WASHINGTON — Russia was preparing to undermine confidence in the United States’ voting process when its hackers surveilled around 20 state election systems in the run-up to the 2016 elections, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a brief report released on Tuesday.

But the committee said it saw no evidence that the Russians had ultimately changed vote tallies or voter registration information. In a few states, however, Russian hackers were “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data,” the committee said.

“These activities began at least as early as 2014, continued through Election Day 2016, and included traditional information-gathering efforts as well as operations likely aimed at preparing to discredit the integrity of the U.S. voting process and election results,” the senators wrote.

  • President Trump continued his attacks on the media in yet another tweet, this time threatening the removal of press credentials due to “negative” press coverage.

Day 476: Thursday, May 10

The Worst Person In Government

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

On Wednesday, conservative commentator George Will dubbed Vice President Mike Pence “America’s most repulsive public figure,” and on Thursday, Pence further validated that theory. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Will wrote:

Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.

There will be negligible legislating by the next Congress, so ballots cast this November will be most important as validations or repudiations of the harmonizing voices of Trump, Pence, Arpaio and the like. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.

Will’s assessment of Pence is spot on. A man who knowingly enables the worst impulses of one of the worst Presidents in history. Pence was already a horrible politician on his own merit. From his “evangelical” driven push for gay conversion therapy to his eagerness to legislate women’s bodies, Pence has a horrible record. But now, he’s standing next to a racist wannabe authoritarian and cheering him on.

At every turn, he’s defended the president, as expected, but then there are moments that are simply inexcusable. Like his praise of former Sherrif Joe Arpaio, who was convicted for not complying with a federal judges order, as “a tireless champion of…the rule of law.” And on Thursday, there was this:

This comes as President Trump, House Republicans, and conservative media are engaged in a coordinated effort to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Pence, once again, shows he holds no real values, other than his hunger for power.

Meanwhile…

  • President Trump announced the date and location of his summit with Kim Jong Un.

  • Devin Nunes appeared to back off his push for unredacted documents related to the intelligence source…at least for now. The Washington Post reported:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) backed away from an open confrontation with the Justice Department on Thursday after a private meeting with senior intelligence officials who said they could not give him top-secret information about an intelligence source who had aided special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to people familiar with the matter.

Since the weekend, Nunes has said he may seek a contempt vote against Attorney General Jeff Sessions if the Justice Department does not produce documents in response to a subpoena. That subpoena asked for all files related to a specific individual.

  • Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released thousands of ads that further detailed who Russian propagandists targeted during the 2016 election.
  • The Washington Post published a report that shed more light on Columbus Nova:

A company at the center of widening questions involving President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is listed as the organization behind a string of websites targeted toward white nationalists and other members of the alt-right.

Columbus Nova, a company whose U.S. chief executive, Andrew Intrater, and Russian investment partner Viktor Vekselberg have both reportedly been interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, is listed as the registrant behind a handful of domains for websites named after the alt-right that were created during the 2016 election.

  • Rudy Giuliani was fired from his law firm.

  • In a speech, with French President Emmanual Macron behind her, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said:

“It’s no longer the case that the United States will simply just protect us. Rather, Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands. That’s the task for the future.”

Day 477: Friday, May 11

What Really Happened In Niger?

From left: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson; Sgt. La David T. Johnson; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. (AP)

Several months after the October 4, 2017 ambush of US troops in Niger, and many questions remain unanswered. This week, the Pentagon released a report on their investigation into the matter. CNN reported:

A series of failures and deficiencies, including a lack of adequate training, contributed to the ambush last October that resulted in a Green Beret-led team being outgunned and overrun by more than 100 ISIS fighters in Niger, leaving four US soldiers dead.

Additionally, the investigation found that prior to starting out on the ill-fated patrol, two junior officers, including an Army captain who remained at the base in Niger and the team leader, falsified a document to get approval for a mission to kill or capture a local ISIS leader. That mission was never approved by the proper chain of command, according to the summary. A much lower risk mission was instead submitted and approved. However, the team was unable to locate the ISIS leader during their unauthorized mission.

Notably, the details relating to Sergeant La David Johnson conflict with what has been widely reported.

U.S. troops were first deployed to Niger in 2013 by President Obama to analyze the growing threat of Islamic extremism in Northern Africa. There are about 800 U.S. troops deployed to Niger now gathering intelligence on ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups sprouting up in the region.

When it comes to this ambush, the Department of Defense at the time stated that there were 12 U.S. troops who were ambushed by 40–50 ISIS-affiliated insurgents while on a routine patrol in Niger. But The New York Times spoke to both U.S. and Nigerien officials and got a clearer picture from both accounts. They reported that there were over 100 insurgents on motorcycles that ambushed a group of 50 Nigerien and U.S. troops as they were leaving a village.

The U.S.-Nigerien troops were driving pick-up trucks when they were attacked by the armed insurgents. 4 Americans were killed, including two Green Berets, and two Americans were wounded. Six Nigeriens were wounded. The four Americans killed were Staff Sergeant Bryan C. Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sergeant Dustin M. Wright, and Sergeant La David Johnson.

There was a firefight that took place for a few hours and then French helicopters, CNN reports the evacuators were private contractors, finally arrived for rescue…but Sergeant La David Johnson was left behind.

At the time it was reported that it took 48 hours to recover his body, which was a mile away from the ambush site. Sergeant La David Johnson wasn’t able to have an open casket funeral, which suggests that his body may have been mutilated. There were some reports indicating that he might’ve still been alive when he was left behind due to his locator being active. The New York Times report suggested that Sergeant La David Johnson’s truck got stuck in the mud which is what led him to be separated from the rest of the troops, but this has yet to be verified by U.S. officials.

Later reports indicated that Sergeant La David Johnson was captured, bound, and executed.

But this week’s Pentagon report claims “Johnson’s hands were not bound and he was not executed but was killed in action while actively engaging the enemy.”

This appears to be a failure at every level. If the Trump administration wasn’t consumed in a whirlpool of counterintelligence and corruption investigations as well as hush money and ethics scandals, this would get more attention.

So…what really happened?

We may never know. One thing is for sure: the families of the fallen deserve answers.

Meanwhile…

  • President Trump backed off a major campaign promise by capitulating to drug companies with his latest plan to lower drug prices. Trump will not be going forward with his proposed plan of Medicare negotiating drug prices. The announcement sent Pharma stocks soaring. Interesting timing, given the recent revelations that the pharmaceutical company Novartis paid Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen $1.2 million after Cohen approached them offering access to the incoming Trump administration. Speaking of Cohen…
  • AT&T’s CEO said, “There is no other way to say it – AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.” This came after it was revealed AT&T paid Michael Cohen $600,000 over the course of 2017 to get advice on their pending Time Warner merger, which then-candidate Trump opposed. And in a new development on this front, Trump’s freewheeling lawyer Rudy Giuliani told The Huffington Post:

“Whatever lobbying was done didn’t reach the president,” Giuliani said, offering as proof the fact that AT&T’s proposed merger with Time-Warner has not gone through. “He did drain the swamp … The president denied the merger. They didn’t get the result they wanted.”

  • It feels like it happened a month ago, but the four women who accused New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) of intense domestic abuse — both physically and emotionally—still reverberated throughout the week. Today, there was an interesting development:

A lawyer who says he once represented two women who claimed that the former New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, had “sexually victimized” them several years ago, asserted on Friday that he discussed their claims in 2013 with an unlikely person: Michael D. Cohen, Donald J. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer.

The lawyer for the women, Peter J. Gleason, offered his surprising account in a letter submitted to Kimba M. Wood, the Manhattan federal judge who is overseeing an ongoing investigation into Mr. Cohen. In the letter, Mr. Gleason asked Judge Wood for an order to protect any records that Mr. Cohen might have concerning their discussion of the women — a step he felt was needed after federal agents seized boxes of documents in a series of raids on Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment and hotel room last month.

This was around the time that Schneiderman was investigating Trump University. If anything, it explains this tweet.

The FBI warned four years ago that a foundation controlled by the Russian oligarch who allegedly reimbursed Donald Trump’s personal lawyer might have been acting on behalf of Russia’s intelligence services.

FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobro wrote an unusual column in the Boston BusinessJournal in April of 2014 to warn that a foundation controlled by Russian energy baron Viktor Vekselberg might be part of a Moscow spying campaign that sought to siphon up American science and technology.

“The foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research, development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial applications,” Ziobro wrote. “This analysis is supported by reports coming out of Russia itself.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee last year, including questions about donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News.

Those interviewed included longtime Trump friend and confidant Thomas Barrack, who oversaw the fundraising effort, as well as individuals familiar with the massive inaugural fund, according to sources with direct knowledge.

  • Democratic lawmakers are considering new legislation to protect Mueller’s investigation even if the investigators are fired:

The discussions “involve assuring the evidence is preserved and reports are done if the special counsel is fired or other political interference is undertaken by the president,” Blumenthal told NBC News.

  • After it was reported that White House staffer Kelly Sadler told colleagues that Senator John McCain’s opposition to CIA Director Nominee doesn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway,” Meghan McCain wondered why she still has a job. That’s a great question for Chief of Staff John Kelly.
  • Today, John Kelly made another bigoted comment. Seemingly misunderstanding that he was describing many of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, Kelly said:

  • As we gear up towards President Trump’s June summit with Kim Jong Un, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the Trump administration’s strategy.

Over the weekend…

In typical Trump administration fashion, the White House is more concerned about the leak exposing their indecency than the indecency itself.

On Sunday, Trump sent out a tweet that took many by surprise.

Unpresidented // Donald Trump / Government / Journalism