Mattis Resigns And Trump Unravels As He Tries To Shut Down The Government Over A Wall
1. President Trump announced today that Secretary of Defense General James Mattis will be retiring in February. This comes just one day after Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw troops from Syria and amid rumors that he might act to do the same in Afghanistan.
Whether or not this was the last straw for Mattis has not yet been confirmed. However, Mattis’ resignation letter leaves little to doubt about his feelings for his soon to be former boss. In it, he admonished Trump’s cynical traditionalism and affinity for authoritarianism by reaffirming the importance of strengthening traditional alliances in the face of Russian and Chinese aggression.
General Mattis is widely considered the most competent member of Trump’s cabinet, the foremost of the so-called “adults in the room.” Aside from a markedly staunch stance against Iran, Mattis presided over a steadfast and level-headed defense policy lauded by both sides of the aisle. His competent leadership will be missed.
2. The government is heading for yet another shutdown, as President Trump is making good on demands to veto a spending bill approved by Congress because it does not include money for his border wall. If a resolution is not reached by close of business Friday, there will be a partial shutdown, the third this year for the GOP, which controls the White House and both houses of Congress. This would set a modern US record for governing incompetence.
3. The economy is facing further bad news this week. The Dow fell 2% today after falling another 1.5% yesterday; other US markets are facing similar trends, as are foreign markets because of them. The latest bout of pessimism is due to two factors. One is the Federal Reserve, which has raised its benchmark interest rates while also downgrading its economic outlook for the new year. The other is the impending shutdown (see above.) Many businesses cheered Trump’s tax cuts earlier in his term. Now that the era of cheap money and borrowing is coming to an end, they will have to come to terms with it.
4. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has reportedly disregarded the advice of ethics officials to recuse himself from overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation. While Whitaker was not found to have a legal conflict requiring him to recuse, ethics officials noted there could be the appearance of one due to his previous comments on the matter, including his public musings on how best to kill the Mueller investigation. The former hot tub salesmen got to the post by steadfastly broadcasting opinions Trump wanted to hear. This, along with his disregard for ethics will earn him high marks in an administration defined by it.
5. Homeland Security boss Kirstjen Nielsen faced questions from the House Judiciary Committee today, and things did not go well for her, as Congressmen grilled her over her agency’s handling of immigrants in their custody. Nielsen’s most egregious moment came when she was unable to provide information about the number of people who have died in DHS custody (the most recent DHS figures are three years old.) The death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and other DHS atrocities have renewed anger over the Trump administration’s treatment of people at the country’s border, a fact that didn’t seem to bother Secretary Nielsen much. She was also unable to come up with the number of ports of entry on the US border (Nielsen thought there were 20 or 30, there are in fact 48), was unable to speak on research that contradicted her administration’s immigration policy, and generally struggled with the use of the English language. The administration’s immigration policy seems to be influenced more by the likes of Tucker Carlson than ideals such as human rights and proper governance.
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