Introducing “Through the Smog” — The Weekly Windshield Wiper Clearing Through Media B.S.
If the President-elect of the United States makes a $25 million fraud settlement, appoints a white nationalist to a post in the White House, or meets with Indian partners despite his vow to separate from business dealings, one might expect ample, exhaustive coverage from the mainstream media.
Instead, as President-elect Donald Trump did precisely all of those things and more, the media presented an abundance of stories aggrandizing Trump’s Twitter tantrums and sugarcoating his alarmingly unconventional decisions during his transition.
This enduring pattern of sensationalism, coupled by the influx of fake news spreading via social media, entrusts us with a new responsibility. We cannot become easily distracted by Tweestorms and partisan pundits. We cannot feed into or succumb to the standardization of prejudiced and dangerous words and actions. We must focus on the most imperative news — news that poses the most grave consequences to our rights, safety, and foreign and domestic policy.
With that said, we introduce you to “Through the Smog” — The Weekly Windshield Wiper Clearing Through Media B.S. Every Sunday evening we will share a roundup of the week’s most important stories.
Here’s our first roundup:
Through the Smog: Sunday, November 20, 2016
Trump University $25 Million Settlement
Summary: On Friday, it was announced that President-elect Donald Trump settled the federal class action lawsuit against the fraudulent Trump University. The case was scheduled to go to court on November 28, but was settled for $25 million dollars. This news comes after Trump’s repeated statements throughout the campaign that he would not be settling, nor was he at fault for any wrongdoing, in the Trump University case. In addition to the $25 million payout, President-elect Trump owes up to $1 million dollars in penalties to New York State for violating the state’s education laws.
Summary: Over the past week, Donald Trump made several appointments to staff his administration that disproved he would “pivot” to unify the country and instead provoked fear and doubt in many Americans. Thus far, the most worrisome appointees have been: Steve Bannon as Senior Adviser to the President, General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser, and Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
Bannon, the Breitbart News Network executive chairman, is known for holding anti-Semitic views and having ties to white nationalists and the alt-right.
Flynn has aggressively rebuked Islam, tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” shared intelligence without following proper procedures, and sat in on intel briefings while advising foreign clients.
Sessions was rejected for judgeship by the Senate for racism in 1986, has attacked the work of the NAACP and ACLU, and referred to Klansmen as “okay.”
See our ultimate cheat sheet to Trump’s appointments here:
Team Of R̶i̶v̶a̶l̶s̶ R̶a̶c̶i̶s̶t̶s̶ Firebrands — The Ultimate Cheat Sheet To Trump’s Appointees
Trump’s Conflicts of Interest
Summary: When the Trump Organization’s foreign business ties raised questions during the campaign, Donald Trump rejected concerns by claiming he would separate from all business dealings. His first week as president-elect proved otherwise.
In this past week, Trump met with his Indian business partners who are building a luxury apartment complex with his name near Mumbai and stories emerged that foreign delegations feel pressure to stay at Trump’s DC hotel, raising prospects of stay-to-play politics. And, while The New York Times’ report originally broke in August, Trump’s $650 million debt to multiple lenders, including the Bank of China, the story gained traction again as many more question his conflicts of interest.
As noted by George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer, this all points to the potential that Trump may violate of Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prevents members of the government from receiving gifts from foreign states, on day one of his presidency.
Summary: During Donald Trump’s “on message” moments of the 2016 campaign, when he attacked Hillary Clinton, he went after her use of a private email server. Throughout his first week as president-elect, however, Trump took calls on unsecured lines of Trump Tower from foreign leaders without consulting the State Department or seeking appropriate briefings.
In another reckless move, this past Thursday Donald Trump had his daughter, Ivanka, sit in on his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Ivanka is set to take over her father’s business, in what he is wrongfully referring to as a “blind trust,” once he is inaugurated. This move raises questions yet again of Trump’s conflicts of interest and of his cognizance of the global security his meetings now impact.