A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 108th Unpresidented Week As POTUS
We avoided another government shutdown this week but the slow-moving constitutional crisis that is Trump’s presidency picked up speed.
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 108.
Since the day Donald Trump took the oath of office and became President Trump, he has bulldozed over America’s democratic norms. As president, Trump has undermined the independence of the Justice Department, verbally assaulted the U.S. Intelligence Community, made obstructive moves to interfere in the Russia investigation, called for his political opponents to be jailed, cozied up to autocratic regimes around the globe, and now he’s declared a fake national emergency using executive power. Time after time, Trump has stepped over red lines that the Republican Party draws, and time after time, they stand behind him nonetheless. That is the real national emergency.
On Friday, President Trump stood in the Rose Garden and made his case for declaring a national emergency at the southern border. In his rambling, incoherent, lie-laden press conference he actually made the case for why he is unfit to serve as president. Anyone who watched those remarks, and isn’t completely gaslit by Fox News, saw a man who lacks the mental and emotional capacity to lead the most powerful nation on Earth. And more than that, they saw a president using fabricated evidence to declare a national emergency and circumvent Congress to address a fake crisis because he didn’t get his way. Trump himself said he didn’t need to do this. Much like his other executive overreaches that have been struck down by the judiciary, this will likely meet the same fate. This is an abuse of power.
We also can’t let President Trump’s war on truth be overlooked. Not only has it led the GOP base into an alternate reality, it has had violent consequences. Two years ago today, President Trump called the media the enemy of the people for the first time. Since then, pipe bombs were mailed to CNN, GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte body slammed a reporter and was applauded by Trump, the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi Arabia and Trump has actively protected them, and just this week a BBC cameraman was assaulted at a Trump rally. Some of Trump’s supporters may cheer on his anti-media rhetoric, but it is emboldening the worst among us.
If we had a functioning democracy where the Republican Party placed country over party, the constitutional mechanisms in front of our elected officials would have already been implemented to remove Trump from office. Regardless of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, much of President Trump’s conduct is impeachable. That is why this is a constitutional crisis. America’s founding document is useless if it’s not enforced. Luckily, the Democratically-controlled House appears to be eager to hold this president accountable for his un-American behavior.
What worries me, is whether or not the general public who isn’t that tuned in to the events at hand are growing desensitized to President Trump’s authoritarian tendencies. Keeping up with Trump’s relentless lying, the criminal investigations plaguing his lifetime of corruption, and the overall chaos of this administration can feel like a full-time job. After this week, a quote from the first female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright comes to mind…
“As [Mussolini] was consolidating his power, he said, ‘if you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, nobody notices.’ And so, I have been concerned about the feather-plucking that is going on in the United States…I think [Trump] is the least democratic president that I’ve observed.” — Madeleine Albright discussing her new book “Fascism: A Warning” on Pod Save The World (April 2018)
It’s up to us to make sure everybody notices.
This comprehensive column sources great reporting from top news organizations, but it’s also built on brilliant analysis from my team at Rantt Media. We are independently-owned and take pride in being reader-funded so that we are beholden to you, not corporate interests. If you like the work we do, please consider supporting us by signing up for a monthly subscription. Below, you’ll see daily breakdowns that are derived from our exclusive Rantt Rundown newsletter, which you can subscribe to:
Robert Mueller Eyes Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo
Day 753: Monday, February 11
Monday’s top stories:
1. Mueller’s search for collusion still at the “heart” of his probe: Last week, the Special Counsel’s office was pressed by a judge to explain the importance of Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s alleged lies. A courtroom transcript from that hearing included revealing comments from Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. It indicated that a possible criminal conspiracy is still at the “heart” of their probe and it also it appears to signal the Special Counsel’s office believes sanctions relief on Russia may have been the quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The New York Times reported:
Comments by one of Mr. Mueller’s lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
“This goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think is the motive here,” Mr. Weissmann said. “This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”
This is clearly significant because it goes to the very core of whether there was a criminal conspiracy. This is a possible quid pro quo we at Rantt have analyzed on many occasions. As we know, Trump Paul Manafort met with Russian Intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik several times, including when Kilimnik was in DC for the inauguration as well as in February 2017 and 2018. Trump Campaign Deputy Chairman Deputy Rick Gates also attended one of those meetings. They discussed the Russia-Ukraine peace plan (which would’ve lifted sanctions). We were already aware they had discussed this in August 2016 when Manafort handed campaign polling data to Kilimnik. It’s unclear whether this is related to the Ukraine Peace plan Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen and associate Felix Sater worked on and reportedly delivered to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
This fits within the bigger picture of possible Trump-Russia collusion and includes the Trump Tower Moscow Project, the pro-Russia stances added to the Republican platform, the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, the apparent coordination of Wikileaks releases, and more. If it’s proven there was an agreement to pursue sanctions relief in exchange for help winning the election, that would be the smoking gun.
2. Trump family makes fun of Native American genocide: As the blackface scandal in Virginia continued to spark a discussion about racism in America, President Trump sent a weekend tweet calling Senator Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, but he didn’t stop there. Trump went on to seemingly made a joke about Andrew Jackson’s “Trail of Tears,” which led to the death of thousands of Native Americans. Then, his son Donald Trump Jr. posted a screenshot of the tweet that also included a joke from a person replying who mocked the genocide of Native Americans. This did not get the universal condemnation that Ralph Northam’s 1984 racist costume received.
3. The Omar backlash: Newly elected Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar sparked controversy after sending a tweet that was widely condemned as anti-Semitic, claiming that money is what drives America’s support for Israel. After Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders called on her to apologize, she released a statement doing so.
4. Shutdown showdown 2.0: After it was reported that negotiations were falling apart in the home stretch, lawmakers have claimed that they have reached a deal “in principle” to keep the government open.
5. Consequences of Trump’s tax plan: The Internal Revenue Service released data that revealed, “The average refund this year is down 8.4 percent, to $1,865, for the week ending Feb. 1.”
In other news…
- CNN: Sen. Amy Klobuchar enters presidential race
- CNN: Elizabeth Warren kicks off presidential bid with challenge to super wealthy — and other Democrats
- The Wall Street Journal: National Enquirer Publisher Asked Justice Department for Advice on Saudi Connection
Day 754: Tuesday, February 12
Tuesday’s top stories:
1. Another inadequate investigation nears its end: Last year the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee prematurely ended their Trump-Russia investigation declaring they found no evidence of collusion. Since then, there have been numerous revelations that prove that assessment incorrect. Now, it appears the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence committee is nearing the end of their investigation and are making a similar announcement. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R- NC) is claiming the committee has found “no direct evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This was a comment President Trump made sure to tout on Twitter.
The ranking member on the committee, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), pushed back:
“I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have… there’s never been a campaign in American history … that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.”
The assessment is contradicted by the astounding amount of evidence of collusion that continues to be reported on every day. We have the at least 16 Trump associates who interacted with Russian nationals, the pro-Russia stances added to the Republican platform, the Trump campaign’s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton, the Trump Tower Moscow Project and the Russian offer of “political synergy, the apparent coordination of Wikileaks releases, and the several times Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort met with Russian Intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik, including in August 2016 when Manafort handed him campaign polling data and worked on a Ukraine Peace plan to lift sanctions. This doesn’t even touch on the oddly capitulating behavior of Donald Trump towards Russian President Vladimir Putin while he’s been in office or the history of alleged money laundering or Russian oligarchs. Those are just a few pieces of the bigger puzzle, which we outlined in this 6-minute Trump-Russia collusion primer.
With the newly Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee ramping up their staffing, the House Intelligence Committee relaunching their Russia investigation, the House Ways and Means Committee aiming at Trump’s finances, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report yet to be released, it might be wise for President Trump to wait before he cries vindication.
2. Trump shutdown negotiations: Lawmakers have agreed to a bipartisan border security compromise, one that President Trump has signaled he is not happy with. It provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border fencing rather than the $5.7 billion that President Trump wanted to build his wall. That being said, it’s highly possible that President Trump may still sign it and declare a national emergency and use executive power to reallocate funds to build the wall. That will likely be held up in court so prepare for more battles ahead.
3. BBC cameraman attacked: On Monday night, potential Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and President Trump held rival rallies in El Paso, Texas. At President Trump’s rally, there was more violence against journalists. A BBC cameraman was assaulted. This comes after President Trump has endorsed Rep. Gianforte’s assault of a journalist, called the media the enemy of the people, and refuses to denounce violence against reporters.
4. Senate Republicans angry at Trump: According to Politico, Senate Republicans are not liking how President Trump is handling Saudi Arabia’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi: “Senate Republicans are fuming at President Donald Trump for telling lawmakers he would disregard a law requiring a report to Congress determining who is responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
5. Corruption compared: In a project months in the making, Rantt Contributor Rand Engel has examined 56 years of corruption in Republican and Democratic administrations and determined that Republican administrations have 38 times the amount of criminal convictions Democratic administrations do. Check out the article and accompanying graphics here.
In other news…
- CNBC: Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen postpones Tuesday appearance at Senate Intelligence Committee for medical reasons
- The Center for Public Integrity: Big businesses promised wage hikes from Trump’s tax cuts. What actually happened?
Day 755: Tuesday, February 13
Wednesday’s top stories:
1. Judge rules Paul Manafort lied to Robert Mueller about Russia-related contacts: Ahead of former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort March 13th sentencing, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has made a consequential ruling. Judge Berman has sided with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on 3 of the 5 areas where the Manafort was accused of lying to investigators. The ruling determines that Mueller has “established a preponderance of evidence” proving that Manafort intentionally lied about a $125k payment he made to an unnamed firm, matters related to another DOJ investigation, and his communications with Russian Intelligence Operative Konstantin Kilimnik. This has voided Manafort’s plea deal and will be taken into consideration at his sentencing.
This is important because last week Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor on the Special Counsel’s team, made comments that Manafort’s lies pertained to matters at the “heart” of their investigation. The reason the contacts with Kilimnik are at the heart of the probe is that it could amount to a quid pro quo of in the potential Trump-Russia conspiracy. Manafort met with Kilimnik several times, including when Kilimnik was in DC for the inauguration as well as in February 2017 and 2018. There was also the August 2016 meeting in New York, which Deputy Campaign Chairman Rick Gates also attended, where Manafort handed Kilimnik campaign polling data and discussed a Ukraine Peace plan that would lift sanctions on Russia. It’s clear Rick Gate’s cooperation is paying off for the Mueller team.
It’s unclear whether this is related to the Ukraine Peace plan Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen and associate Felix Sater worked on and reportedly delivered to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Either way, it fits within the pattern of behavior of various Trump officials who sought to implement pro-Russia policies.
Watch this story, because if it’s proven that there was an agreement for sanctions relief in exchange for help winning the election, then that would be the missing piece needed to determine if there was a criminal conspiracy. To learn more about the Trump-Russia collusion story, read our 6-minute primer outlining all of the evidence.
2. The Art of the Deal?: After shutting down the government for 35 days, causing millions of Americans to be negatively impacted, costing the U.S. economy $11 billion, and tanking his approval rating, Trump is about to sign a deal he could’ve signed in December. President Trump is reportedly going to sign the bipartisan deal that lawmakers have drafted to avoid a government shutdown this Friday. The deal offers $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border fencing, which is less than the $5.7 billion Trump shut the government down over. President Trump did reportedly manage to block federal contractors from being guaranteed backpay though. When it comes to the wall, look out for Trump attempting to declare a national emergency.
3. The party of fiscal irresponsibility: The national debt has hit $22 trillion for the first time in American history. This comes after the Congressional Budget Office projected the GOP tax plan will add $1.8 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. Deficits were reduced considerably under the Obama administration.
4. House rebukes Trump over Saudi Arabia: The House has voted by a 248-to-177 margin for the U.S. to stop aiding Saudi Arabia in their bloody war in Yemen which has sparked a humanitarian crisis. The Senate passed a similar measure in the last Congress so all eyes are now on them when it comes to this measure.
5. FEMA Administrator resigns: FEMA Administrator Brock Long has resigned after a tumultuous tenure overseeing numerous natural disasters, including Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires.
In other news…
- The Daily Beast: Trump’s DHS Guts Task Forces Protecting Elections From Foreign Meddling
- Talking Points Memo: Manafort-Linked PAC Failed To Report $1 Million And The FEC Wants To Know Why
- The Guardian: ‘Uniquely American’: Senate passes landmark bill to enlarge national parks
- The Washington Post: President Trump installed a room-sized golf simulator at White House
- The New York Times: U.S. Revives Secret Program to Sabotage Iranian Missiles and Rockets
- NBC News: ‘Whistleblower’ seeks protection after sounding alarm over White House security clearances
Why Trump’s National Emergency Is Built On Lies
Day 756: Thursday, February 14
Thursday’s top stories:
1. Fake national emergency: The border compromise that allocates $1,375 for border security and averts a government shutdown has passed Congress, but another fight is on the horizon. President Trump is likely about to do what many consider to be a blatant abuse of power. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) signaled that President Trump will sign their bill and declare a national emergency to reallocate funds to build his wall, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed. Trump will reportedly allocate $8 billion to the effort. It’s been reported that the Justice Department has warned the White House that this move would be tied up in courts. The possible sequence of events before us: 1) National emergency declared simply to show Trump’s base he’s fighting. 2) Gets tied up in court battles (if Congress doesn’t block it themselves.) 3) Trump blames the courts. 4) Trump, who couldn’t even build the wall with a GOP majority, then campaigns on the wall again in 2020. 5) National emergency eventually struck down in the Supreme Court with Chief Justice Roberts (and possibly Justice Gorsuch) siding with liberals.
It’s important to note that President Trump’s basis for a national emergency is built on fear mongering lies. There is no national security crisis at the border. Immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans, the majority of drugs that cross the southern border are at legal ports of entry, and the vast majority of terrorists who enter the United States are caught at airports. The only crisis at the border is the humanitarian crisis of President Trump’s own making. First, there was the child separation policy. Then, there was metering, the turning away of migrants at legal ports of entry, and other efforts to roll back the legal asylum process. These measures have caused a backlog of migrants waiting in Mexico and a surge in US-based detention centers. Side note: Every single congressperson representing a border county does not approve of building a multi-billion dollar concrete wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for.
McConnell, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and the right-wing media support the move while some Republicans have furrowed their brows. Meanwhile, Democrats have called it an unconstitutional abuse of power and warned of the precedent it sets. Needless to say, keep an eye on this consequential story.
2. New Attorney General: William Barr, who once served as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush, has just been confirmed to the role once again. Barr will replace Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker who was installed after Jeff Sessions left the role. Given the manner in which he treated Sessions, President Trump clearly sees the role as one designed to protect himself. Barr has not committed to making Mueller’s report public and it has yet to be seen whether he will resist Trump’s inevitable attempts to interfere in the probe.
3. McCabe’s memoir: Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe held an interview about his memoir which depicts the events that allegedly transpired while he worked in the White House. McCabe signaled that there were serious discussions about whether the 25th amendment would be invoked on President Trump in the aftermath of the firing FBI Director James Comey. President Trump unleashed on Twitter.
4. Amazon exodus: After a mountain of opposition from local politicians and grassroots activists, Amazon has announced that they will not move their 2nd headquarters into New York City.
5. Remembering Parkland: One year ago today, 17 people were killed in the horrific shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since then, the March For Our Lives student leaders have reshaped how we talk about gun violence in America. And this week, they have launched a truly remarkable project. There have been 1,200 American kids killed by gun violence since the Parkland shooting, so they have compiled 1,200 obituaries written by teen journalists around the country.
In other news…
- AP Interview: Maduro reveals secret meetings with US envoy
- Mother Jones: Trump Judicial Nominees Are Refusing to Endorse Brown v. Board of Education
An Emergency So Urgent It Warranted An Immediate Mar-a-Lago Vacation
Day 757: Friday, February 15
Friday’s top stories:
1. Trump’s national embarrassment: Today, President Trump declared a national emergency which, as we outlined on Thursday, is based entirely on a manufactured crisis built on lies. But before he declared the emergency, he went on a rambling tirade that left many of his critics pointing to this as a prime example of his unfitness for office. The remarks themselves were filled with lies, falsehoods, and misstatements. Trump repeated the lie that he inherited a failing economy when in reality he inherited 75 months of consecutive job growth and an unemployment rate of 4.7% from President Obama who began his presidency with the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Trump also claimed that the majority of drugs that enter the United States don’t pass through legal ports of entry when in reality, that is exactly what they do. President Trump also appeared to call for the death penalty to be used against drug dealers, citing China’s policies.
President Trump also acknowledged the chain of events we predicted on Thursday, which involved courts blocking Trump’s national emergency declaration until the Supreme Court takes up the case. That was a subtle admission that this was a largely symbolic move in an effort to appease Trump’s base. After the remarks, President Trump held an impromptu press conference where he combatively took questions from the media. In response to NBC’s Peter Alexander’s question, President Trump admitted, “I didn’t need to do this… I just want to do it faster.” Trump subsequently signed the declaration and then flew to Florida for a weekend at Mar-a-Lago.
The declaration itself seeks to reallocate $3.6 billion from the defense budget, $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs, and $600 million from the Treasury Department in order to begin construction of his wall at the southern border. It’s interesting that Trump is trying to divert funds from counternarcotics programs in order to build a wall that won’t prevent drugs from entering the United States. Legal challenges are already being prepared. After condemning this as an abuse of power, Democrats are planning to make an effort to block the order themselves. We’ll see how this plays out.
2. Mueller update: There were quite a few developments today in the Russia instigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated that Trump’s former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort deserved 24.5 years in prison. In a court filing, the Special Counsel’s office also revealed they have evidence of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone communicating with Wikileaks, that Stone’s indictment is linked to the indictment of the Russian intelligence service GRU, and Judge Jackson placed a gag order on Stone. And in one of the bigger revelations, it was revealed that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
3. Another shooting: One day after the one year anniversary of the Parkland tragedy, there was another mass shooting. In Aurora, Illinois, six people, including the gunman, died and 5 officers were shot.
4. Trump attorneys may have misled ethics officials: House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings released evidence that indicates President Trump’s personal attorneys may have lied about President Trump’s hush money payments. NBC News reports:
In the letter to the White House, Cummings says the documents he’s requested are “even more critical” given new information obtained from the Office of Government Ethics, an executive branch agency, “that describe false information provided by the lawyers representing President Trump.”
Those documents, Cummings writes, include notes taken by OGE officials accounting for what they described as the “evolving stories” provided by both Trump’s personal attorney and White House lawyers about whether Trump directed Cohen to make the payments and if he reimbursed him for them.
5. Supreme court census case: The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a consequential case regarding whether or not the Trump administration can add the question of citizenship to the 2020 census.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: Kamala Harris: Everything You Need To Know About Her Before 2020
- Rantt Media: Why Race And Gender Representation In Politics Is So Important
- CNN: Top US general disagrees with Trump over Syria troop pullout
Rantt Media’s comprehensive articles source reporting from top news organizations, but they’re also built on brilliant analysis from our team. We are independently-owned and strive for quality, not clicks. But the only way to truly have a media for the people is for media to be funded by the people. We take pride in being reader-funded so that we are beholden to you, not corporate interests. If you like the work we do, please consider supporting us by signing up for a monthly subscription.