“Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening…”—President Donald Trump, July 24, 2018 (no, not 1984)
This week, the nation heard a September 2016 tape of President Trump detailing hush money payments to suppress a story about one of his alleged affairs.
The Trump administration failed to meet the deadline to reunite the thousands of immigrant children his administration took from their parents at the border. 650 separated children remain in HHS custody, while hundreds of allegations of abuse and child molestation, spanning four years, in their youth shelters were reported.
This President leads the self-proclaimed party of “family values.”
President Trump is open to meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. This comes after the Helsinki summit where Trump sided with the man who ordered the attack on American democracy over the U.S. Intelligence Community, called the U.S. foolish, and panned the investigation into Russia’s interference as a “witch hunt.”
We also learned that then-Candidate Trump might have approved the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting (where his son and campaign sought dirt on from Russian operatives), according to his former personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen.
This is the self-proclaimed President of “America First.”
President Trump continued his campaign undermine the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation (which he is a subject of) in coordination with House Republicans and conservative media. This effort has expanded into a broad initiative to discredit the DOJ, FBI, and the U.S. Intelligence Community as a whole. House Republicans have gone as far as to file unsubstantiated articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
This is the self-proclaimed President, and party, of “law and order.”
At home, America’s GDP growth hit 4.1% for the first time since 2014, but what good is 4.1% growth when 80% of Americans own just 7% of the nation’s wealth, 19% owns 53%, and 1% owns about 40%. The economy is booming, but only 20% of the population sees 90% of the benefits. What President Trump won’t tell you is that 1.06% of that growth came from net exports, bolstered by a surge in soybean exports (which is due to the industry trying to get ahead of the retaliatory tariffs). Trump has also approved $12 billion in aid for farmers who will be harmed by his trade war in yet another example of the President creating a costly solution to a crisis of his own making.
On the world stage, America’s allies are forced to shift their planning around an unreliable U.S. President who—in his pullout from the Paris Climate Accord, departure from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, violation of the Iran Nuclear Deal, and threats to upend western alliances—has reduced trust in America. President Trump sees diplomacy as a transactional zero-sum game; not one of long-term mutual benefit. Led by this belief, he’s thrown the US-led liberal world order into a tailspin. Will our allies have to plan for a 4-year renewal date on all of their agreements with America in preparation for either the Democratic States of America or the Republican States of America to undo their predecessor’s commitments?
All the while, as the United States reverts to isolationism, China looks to expand their global influence.
This is the self-proclaimed President of “Make America Great Again.”
Let’s dive into another Unpresidented week.
Day 550: Monday, July 23
The Art Of The Distraction
If there’s one thing Donald Trump is great at, it’s closing tremendous deals… Ok, jokes aside, Trump is incredible at diverting the attention of the media. Whether it’s scheduling an Apprentice-style primetime announcement or sending out midnight ALL CAPS tweets threatening world leaders, Trump is the king of paranoia-driven deflection. And last night, Trump chose the latter.
The Distractions: On Sunday night, President Trump took to Twitter to threaten the Iranian President.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Interesting that this is the response a threat warranted, but the when Russian President Vladimir Putin successfully attacks American democracy, he gets invited to the White House.
There was also Trump’s consideration of removing the security clearances of Former FBI Director James Comey, Former Director of the Central Intelligence John Brennan, Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Former Acting FBI Director Ander McCabe, and Former Director of the National Security Agency Michael Hayden. Aside from the fact some of those named no longer have security clearances, this was widely panned as the President of the United States targeting those who dare to speak out against him.
In their latest gaslighting move, President Trump and House Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA-22), continued to argue that the FISA surveillance of Carter Page was politically motivated, that the FISA court was misled, and the warrant was based on the Christopher Steele dossier. After the release of these 412 pages of documents this past weekend, which proves these claims to be blatantly false, President Trump, House Republicans, and conservative media continue to push this false narrative.
Many would call this wagging the dog.
The Stories: This flurry of activity came as a disruption to the media’s continued discussion of whether or not President Trump is compromised by Russia and his disastrous capitulation to Putin last week. This would surely be bolstered by the fact President Trump completed a quintuple walk-back and is now back to calling Russian interference a hoax. There was also ongoing discussion surrounding the recording Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen locked down in Septemeber 2016, revealing Donald Trump discussed purchasing the rights to Karen McDougal’s affair story from the National Enquirer. Also, Trump’s former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s criminal trial was set to begin this week (now postponed).
Although we shouldn’t necessarily avoid discussing the storylines Trump intends to be distractions, we should remain vigilant and aware of who is driving the narrative and what is productive vs. what is playing into the hands of Distraction Donnie.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: House Republicans Want To Force You To Read Their Conspiracy Theories… By Law
- Rantt Media: Yes, Sacha Baron Cohen Is Being Deceptive. Who cares?
- The Guardian: Michael Cohen: at least 12 tapes handed to investigators after raid on Trump lawyer
- ABC News: Judge delays Manafort trial, grants immunity to 5 Mueller witnesses
- The Washington Post: Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments
- The Washington Post: Russian billionaire with U.S. investments backed alleged agent Maria Butina, according to a person familiar with her Senate testimony
- The Daily Beast: John Kelly Signed Off on a ‘Purge’ of Scott Pruitt Loyalists From EPA
- The Washington Post: In private, Trump vents frustration over lack of progress on North Korea
Day 551: Tuesday, July 24
Lordy, There Are Tapes
The Big Story: On Friday, we learned about the existence a tape Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen recorded in Septemeber 2016 where Donald Trump discussed purchasing the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s affair story from the National Enquirer. Tonight, it was released by CNN.
“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.
Trump interrupts Cohen asking, “What financing?” according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, “We’ll have to pay.” Trump is heard saying “pay with cash” but the audio is muddled and it’s unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, “no, no” but it is not clear what is said next.
President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed that that the payment was ultimately never made. But, Giuliani went on to say that Trump told Cohen if he were to make a payment to use a check instead of cash. The word check is nowhere to be heard in the recording.
This, exactly, is the story. It’s not about who said the word “cash” or anything else. It is about the soon-to-be President of the United States willingly (maybe eagerly) engaging in the paying of hush money for his affair(s).
If he’d do this so easily, how big is the iceberg? https://t.co/o9AKpO5tQY
— Adam (@aalali44) July 25, 2018
The Context: A little background info is in order. As we know, 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. David Pecker, the chairman of the National Enquirer’s parent company, is a friend of Donald Trump’s. The Wall Street Journal broke the story on this 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 have always been questions as to whether or not Cohen was involved in the National Enquirer deal. McDougal has accused Cohen of such, and told CNN that she later found out her legal representation for the negotiations with the Enquirer, Keith Davidson, was in contact with Cohen.
A major unanswered question is whether or not Cohen reimbursed the Enquirer for their payment to McDougal. Although his audio recording doesn’t confirm that, it does provide evidence that makes that possibility more likely. Given the report that the National Enquirer has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors, it’s definitely of interest. Michael Cohen had a fixer fund he amassed, so if Trump discussed payments to McDougal, whether or not any of that money made its way to the Enquirer is a question that must be answered.
Cohen reportedly obtained the $774,000 through a home-equity line of credit. As we know, Cohen paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) in October 2016 to keep her quiet about her affair with Donald Trump. Rudy Giuliani told Fox News’ Hannity that this payment was reimbursed and that President Trump knew about it. Giuliani also claimed that the payment was related to the campaign. Giuliani and Trump have both asserted that Cohen was reimbursed through his $35k monthly retainer. Giuliani went as far as to say Cohen was reimbursed up to $470,000 (later revising it down to $420,000).
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. Recent reports indicate Cohen will likely cooperate with federal investigators.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: WATCH: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Joins “Lock Her Up!” Chant
- Rantt Media: How To Stop Russia From Hacking America’s Power Grid
- The Washington Post: White House readies plan for $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers caught in Trump’s escalating trade war
- NBC News: Over 460 migrants separated from their children have potentially been deported by U.S.
- CNN: Exclusive: Listen to separated moms beg for their kids in court
- The New York Times: Two Trump Allies, Seeing Unlimited Opportunity, Instead Drew Scrutiny
- The Washington Post: ‘He’s just trolling people’: Ryan plays down Trump’s threat to revoke security clearances
- CNN: Burr breaks with Nunes: ‘Sound reasons’ for judges to approve FISA warrant
- Bloomberg: Trump Proposes Mueller Interview With No Obstruction Questions
- President Trump sent out a tweet claiming he’s suddenly concerned about Russia’s meddling and falsely stated that they’ll help the Democrats.
Day 552: Wednesday, July 25
The Big Story: On Wednesday, House Freedom Caucus members Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) filed a resolution, co-sponsored by 9 other Republicans, moving to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. They’ve threatened to do so for months as a means to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in American democracy (which Rosenstein oversees), but it appears they finally pulled the trigger. It appears to be a largely symbolic move, as the House heads out for the summer at the end of this week and Meadows did not include a measure that would force a vote. The 5 articles of impeachment are:
- Article 1: Dereliction of duty for not appointing a second special counsel to investigate the President’s political opponent Hillary Clinton.
- Article 2: A claim that the DOJ hasn’t disclosed documents requested by House committees.
- Article 3: They allege Rosenstein attempted to conceal facts in documents turned over because of heavy redactions.
- Artice 4: They allege Rosenstein’s was unwilling to provide a less redacted version of the memo that expanded Mueller’s scope of his probe.
- Article 5: They claim Rosenstein wrongfully authorized FISA surveillance of Trump’s campaign (this has been debunked)
Keep this in mind:
Impeachment has not been carried out against an executive branch employee in 122 years, and the constitution defines it as punishment for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
R’s are mad because he didn’t produce the documents they wanted quickly enough. https://t.co/lUdMLZQWqJ
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) July 25, 2018
The Context: This is nothing more than a coordinated campaign on the part of President Trump, House Republicans, and conservative media to undermine the Russia investigation (which the President is a subject of). This effort has extended into efforts to discredit the DOJ, FBI, and the U.S. Intelligence Community as a whole.
The U.S. Intelligence Community concluded that Russia’s longstanding objective has been to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order and our faith in democratic institutions. For decades, Russian propaganda has aimed to stir racial divisions, attack the credibility of the U.S. government, and try to weaken western influence. Now, we have a President, backed by the full support of his party and propaganda arms like Fox News, executing on our foreign adversary’s primary objectives.
The investigation they’re trying to undermine, which President Trump called a witch hunt on the world stage, is a multi-faceted counterintelligence investigation that probes Russian interference, the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia, and potential obstruction of Justice on the part of President Trump. It also probes financial crimes on the part of Trump’s associates as well as international corruption involving Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, etc. Before Rosenstein indicted 12 Russians the other week, the investigation had already yielded at least 79 charges against 23 people or companies, 5 guilty pleas (3 of which came from Trump’s associates), and 1 person sentenced.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: Here Are The Names Of The 11 House Republicans Trying To Impeach Rod Rosenstein
- CNN: Pompeo defiant in clash over Trump-Putin summit
- The New York Times: U.S. and Europe Outline Deal to Ease Trade Feud
- The Hill: Coca-Cola says it’s raising soda prices after Trump tariffs
- The Washington Post: Federal judge allows emoluments case against Trump to proceed
- The Washington Post: ‘I’m not going to be a punching bag anymore’: Inside Michael Cohen’s break with Trump
- CNN: White House bans network pool reporter from Rose Garden event
- CNN: Trump blasts Cohen over tape disclosure
- The Atlantic: The White House Transcript Is Missing the Most Explosive Part of the Trump–Putin Press Conference
- CNN: White House fixes Trump-Putin transcript error after key question omitted
- The New York Times: New Emails Show Michigan Republicans Plotting to Gerrymander Maps
Day 553: Thursday, July 26
The Smoking Gun?
After repeated denials from Donald Trump Sr. and Jr., CNN reported a bombshell that completely undermines the Trump administration’s narrative about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.
Cohen’s claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting until he was approached about it by The New York Times in July 2017.
Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen’s account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources.
To be clear, these sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account.
The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was held between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer and self-described informant), and Russian operatives. Donald Trump Jr.’s own emails and congressional testimony revealed that he was very eager about the prospect of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The Trump administration’s initial response to this, which was crafted on Air Force One by Trump himself with the help of former Communications Director Hope Hicks, was false. Trump Jr.’s first statement after the initial report asserted the meeting was only about adoption. As we now know, Trump Jr. later acknowledged that it clearly wasn’t just about adoption. He clearly states that he anticipated he was going to receive damaging information on his father’s political opponent Hillary Clinton. Even if it was strictly about “adoption,” it would’ve been problematic, given the fact Magnitsky Act was expanded in 2016 and now sanctions 44 people worldwide. If this story wasn’t about Jr. seeking dirt, it would’ve been about Trump campaign officials meeting with a Russian lawyer who is lobbying against US-imposed sanctions on Russia.
This would be a significant development in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. If true, it would also mean that Donald Trump Jr. lied about his father’s knowledge of this to congressional investigators.
The Full Meeting Breakdown
- In attendance: Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, the Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, Russian interpreter and a representative for Aras Agalarov, Ike Kaveladze were at this June 9th meeting at Trump tower
- Goldstone, publicist, and former British tabloid reporter, was the intermediary for setting up the meeting
- Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Clinton before agreeing to attend
- Veselnitskaya was lobbying against Russian sanctions, and has testified that during the meeting Trump Jr. asked for damning information Hillary Clinton
- Trump Jr. was told it was part of Russia’s effort to support his father’s candidacy (with email confirmation via Trump Jr. himself)
- Goldstone was told to set up the meeting by the son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov
- Trump Jr. didn’t appear surprised by Goldstone’s declaration that the Russian government supports his father
- There seemed to have been a phone call between Emin Agalarov and Donald Trump Jr. on June 6th
- Trump Sr. was one floor above the meeting at Trump Tower while the meeting took place
Federal law, Section 30121 of Title 52, states that it is a crime for a foreign national to contribute money or other items of value to an American election, as well as making it illegal for an American to solicit such a contribution.
In other news…
- The Wall Street Journal: Trump Organization Finance Chief Called to Testify Before Federal Grand Jury
- The New York Times reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is analyzing President Trump’s tweets as part of his obstruction of justice and witness tampering probe.
- Rantt Media: Jim Jordan Is Running For House Speaker In Spite Of Allegations He Ignored Sexual Abuse
- Rantt Media: Hundreds Have Been Killed In Nicaragua Protests As President Ortega Refuses To Step Down
- Politico: Most deported migrants were not asked about leaving children behind, Trump official says
- NPR: Multi-State Lawsuit Against Census Citizenship Question To Move Ahead
- NBC News: Polls: Trump approval sags in trio of Midwest states
Day 554: Friday, July 27
The Big Story: Today, ProPublica released a piece of incredible journalism that analyzed 70 of the 100 immigrant youth shelters that are run by the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. The shelters hold over 10,000 unaccompanied minors, with last year marking the number of kids younger than 13 at 17% of that. ProPublica obtained more than 1,000 pages of police reports and call logs, which detail hundreds of reports of sexual abuse, fights, and missing children dating back to 2014. Immigration advocates have noted that the Trump administration’s immigration policies have added increased pressure on these already understaffed shelters, likely making the environment even worse. From reports of groping to forced sexual activities, the allegations are horrific.
The Nation also reported that a 6-year-old girl that was separated from her parents by Trump’s zero-tolerance policy was molested by an older child at Southwest Key Programs shelter, one of the shelters mentioned in the ProPublica report. These reports of abuse come after reports of forced injection, physical abuse, and lawsuits alleging multiple migrant women in ICE custody have been denied medical care, leading them to bleed for hours and have miscarriages.
The Context: The deadline to reunite the almost 3,000 immigrant children that remained separated from their parents was this week on July 26th. The June 26 federal court decision required that the 102 younger children be reunited by July 10th while the remaining almost 3,000 that were still in the custody of Health and Human Services (HHS) were ordered to be reunited by July 26th. Since it appeared the Trump administration had no plan for reunification once they separated the children, they failed to meet that deadline. CNN reported:
According to a court filing, the government has reunited 1,442 families with children aged 5 and older by late Thursday. The government says an additional 378 children have already been released under “appropriate circumstances,” according to the court filing. That includes children released to another family member or friend who can care for them, children who were released to parents already out of government custody and those who have turned 18.
There are over 700 separated children still in custody, due to families they’ve deemed “ineligible” for reunification, either because they had suspicions about the parents or they could not locate them. There have also been more than 400 parents of the separated children deported. These are people who are fleeing violence in their home countries, seeking asylum in the United States.
The Look Ahead: A reminder that President Trump’s own policy started this humanitarian crisis with his “zero tolerance” engineered by White House Adviser Stephen Miller and implemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. President Trump was forced by public pressure to end this policy, and court rulings have forced him to reunite these families. The pressure must be kept up until these wrongs are righted.
As for future policies, President Trump has repeatedly called for the end of immigrants’ due process rights at the border, all while his “denaturalization task force” takes aim at immigrants already residing in the U.S. And now, the Trump administration is reportedly discharging immigrants who are fighting for our country in the U.S. military.
There are still countless questions to be answered, thousands of families to be reunited, and multiple reports of abuse that must be addressed.
The Republican-led Congress hasn’t held a single hearing on the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: Cohen Reportedly Claims Trump Approved 2016 Trump Tower Meeting, Ready To Tell Mueller
- The Washington Post: Trump maintains not knowing in advance about meeting with Russians, disputing Cohen claim
- Bloomberg: U.S. Growth Hits 4.1%, Fastest Since 2014, in Win for Trump
- Rantt Media: WATCH: 2 Years Ago, MSNBC’s Katy Tur Called Out Trump For Asking Russia To Hack Clinton
- NBC News: Trump admin has no central strategy for election security, and no one’s in charge
- The New York Times: Putin Invites Trump to Moscow for Second Meeting After Washington Postponed Plans
- ABC News: From Russia to Bistro Bis: The Calif. congressman who dined with alleged Russian agent