A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 115th Unpresidented Week As POTUS
As Attorney General Barr’s summary looks more like an effort to protect the president, Trump seeks refuge in his authoritarian tactics.
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 115.
Over 800 days. Over 9,000 lies. Countless corruption investigations. One president who still maintains around 90% support of his shrinking party. This week was filled to the brim with stories that highlighted the corruption, carelessness, and authoritarian tendencies of the Trump administration.
President Trump’s “total exoneration” narrative is quickly unraveling into a narrative indicating a possible corrupt coverup. Multiple news outlets have reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was frustrated with the way Attorney General William Barr’s 4-page summary characterized their nearly 400-page report. Some of Mueller’s investigators reportedly told associates that Barr downplayed the “alarming and significant” evidence of obstruction of justice they gathered – unsurprising given Barr has made it known he does not believe a president can obstruct justice. They also reportedly alleged that although they couldn’t find enough evidence to charge a criminal conspiracy, the evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russia was “compelling.”
While we await the redacted Mueller report Attorney General Barr is set to deliver to Congress, President Trump has gone from cries of “total exoneration” to renewed attacks on the Special Counsel and his team. This week, Trump called Mueller and his team “treasonous”, attacked the media as the “enemy of the people” for covering his very real ties to Russia, and continued his overall vengeful rhetoric. If Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was so “exonerating” for President Trump, Barr wouldn’t have needed to quickly write a letter clearing him of obstruction and Trump wouldn’t be trying to suppress its release.
From the early days of his candidacy, Donald Trump ran on protecting America’s national security. As President, Trump has shown a carelessness when it comes to the most basic national security precautions. As we saw with the recent arrest of a Chinese national bringing a malware infected thumb drive into Mar-a-Lago and the allegations that Cindy Yang has been pitching Chinese nationals on access to the President, Trump’s visits to his business properties are a counterintelligence nightmare. Not to mention the fact President Trump’s administration reportedly granted 25 officials, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, security clearances after they were denied by career employees for reasons including foreign entanglements and conflicts of interest.
President Trump’s villainizing of immigrants escalated this week. In his false remarks that America is “full,” Trump again defamed asylum seekers as gang members and criminals. The President of the United States called for the asylum process to be shut down entirely and said we need to “get rid of judges”. These claims are objectively illegal, unAmerican, and echo the tactics of the vilest nationalist movements in history. President Trump has shown no real commitment to solving the problems at the southern border. In fact, his policies and suggested plans would only exacerbate the border crisis that he initially contributed to.
Meanwhile, House Democrats continued their oversight duties with the approval of a subpoena (not yet issued) for Mueller’s full report and a formal request to the IRS for President Trump’s tax returns. In response to those moves, President Trump is acting like a man with something to hide. The weeks ahead will be interesting but for now, let’s dive into another Unpresidented week.
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:
Conflicted White House
Day 802: Monday, April 1
The House Oversight and Reform Committee has released a memo that reveals some more details about the scope of the White House’s security clearance scandal. Tricia Newbold, who is a manager in the White House’s personnel office and has worked for 18 years in both Democratic and Republican administrations, spoke to the committee last month. She told them that 25 individuals, including two current White House officials, were granted security clearances after they were denied by career employees.
The House Oversight memo states that the reasons for initially denying the clearances included “foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.” The White House then allegedly overrode those decisions and granted the clearances anyway. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has said he will issue subpoenas related to the processes that allowed this to take place.
This comes after multiple reports indicated both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were granted security clearances by President Trump himself after then-Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to do so. The order to grant Kushner’s clearance was reportedly refused due to concerns from not only Kelly and McGahn but from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In February, Ivanka Trump claimed that her father played no role in granting either her or Jared Kushner’s security clearances. If these reports are true, that was a lie.
EXCLUSIVE: Ivanka Trump says she and her husband Jared Kushner received no special treatment from her father when obtaining their top security clearances.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2019
Jared Kushner’s ties to foreign leaders and his business interests abroad have been well documented. Ivanka Trump’s conflicts of interest have also taken center stage throughout her tenure in the White House, as her company continues to be granted Chinese trademarks. Since the hiring of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the Trump administration has shown a blatant indifference to their staff’s conflicts of interest and foreign entanglements. That may be because the President has so many himself.
In other news…
- CNN: Democrats to authorize subpoena for full Mueller report
- NBC News: Trump administration says it will cut foreign aid for Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador
- Axios Scoop: Trump “saving” Judge Amy Barrett for Ruth Bader Ginsburg seat
- BBC News: Brexit votes: MPs fail to back proposals again
- The Washington Post: Massive disaster relief bill stalls in Senate over Puerto Rico dispute
Trump’s Brand Of Authoritarianism
Day 803: Tuesday, April 2
“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)
On Tuesday, President Trump once again broached the idea of removing the due process rights of migrants crossing the southern border.
TRUMP threatens to close border with Mexico as soon as this weekend, then rants about immigration during Oval Office meeting with NATO secretary general: “What we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly & make a deal… to be honest with you, we have to get rid of judges.” pic.twitter.com/DAbeXVXUIK
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 2, 2019
President Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are not new, nor are they surprising. Candidate Trump ran a campaign promising that he would lock up Hillary Clinton, tapped into the xenophobic fears of the Republican base, and began his attacks on the media.
As President, Trump has labeled himself a “nationalist”, declared a national emergency based on a manufactured crisis at the southern border, separated migrant families, cozied up to dictators around the globe, repeatedly called for his political opponents to be jailed, threatened the independence of the Justice Department, asked for loyalty from FBI Director James Comey, and subsequently fired him.
President Trump has called the media the “enemy of the American people”, the “opposition party”, and “fake news”. Trump has praised a GOP congressman who body slammed a reporter and has not quieted his anti-media rhetoric even after one of his supporters sent pipe bombs to CNN. Anyone with a knowledge of history knows the first target of despots is the media.
President Trump has forged a relationship with Fox News that can only be compared to that of state-run TV while the mainstream media pretends to upkeep the appearance of normalcy through false equivalency. According to The Washington Post, President Trump has made at least 9,451 false or misleading claims during his presidency.
Given the wide array of corruption investigations encircling him, President Trump has a vested interest in eroding the truth and gaslighting his far-right base. All the while, he scapegoats minorities for his base’s economic plight as he passes legislation that benefits the top 1%. Trump’s central political message is fear.
Since Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report last week, President Trump appears emboldened. The Trump campaign circulated an enemies list and promised to “punish” those who reported on the very real ties between Russia and Trump. Trump has falsely accused those who ran the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election of “treason.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Party remains complicit in Trump’s endeavor to consolidate power. While they echo President Trump’s attacks on U.S. institutions they also engineer minority rule through gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics. The once so-called “Grand Old Party” of Lincoln is now the corrupt party of Trump.
These tendencies run contrary to everything the United States of America stands for and yet the President of the United States embraces them in order to maintain his power. The media needs to be taking this conduct more seriously, instead, many outlets jump from story to story without connecting them to the broader story of Trump’s brand of authoritarianism.
Meanwhile, the wannabe authoritarian in the White House is already spending millions of dollars on digital ads for his 2020 campaign. As the Democrats gear up for a competitive presidential primary, they must be smart and stay focused on the bigger picture. Internal squabbling will only embolden a President who must be beaten in 2020 for the sake of our democracy.
When it comes to the American people, stay vigilant and never let Trump convince you that any of this is normal. Make sure your friends are aware of the dangers Trump poses to democracy and that it’s not hyperbole. If nobody notices President Trump’s feather-plucking in the midst of the chaotic news cycles that serve him, he wins.
In other news…
- The Washington Post: Trump abandons plan for pre-election vote on health care after talking to McConnell
- CNN: Trump now says Congress must act to keep southern border open
- Mother Jones: Trump Tears Into Puerto Rico, Falsely Claims It Has Received $91 Billion in Aid
- USA TODAY: White House spokesperson calls Puerto Rico ‘that country’ twice. It’s not a country.
- The Washington Post: House panel votes to subpoena former White House official over security clearances
- The Washington Post: Chinese woman carrying thumb drive with malware arrested at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort
- The Daily Beast: Homeland Security Disbands Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit
- Politico: Trump changes tune on public release of Mueller report
- The Guardian: Trump keeps saying his father was born in Germany – he wasn’t
- NBC News: Lori Lightfoot elected Chicago mayor, first black woman and first openly gay person to hold post
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Mueller’s Team Breaks Their Silence
Day 804: Wednesday, April 3
1. Mueller’s team speaks out: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is famously tight-lipped. Not anymore. Now, we are gleaning some of the first insights into how they perceived their 22-month long probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Today, The New York Times reported:
Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.
The report goes on to detail how Mueller’s team created multiple summaries of their nearly 400-page report and were surprised that none of that material was included in Barr’s 4-page letter to Congress. Mueller’s team also reportedly expressed concerns that Barr’s initial summary of their report could solidify a narrative before the full report was released.
The New York Times report left it unclear what specific components of Barr’s summary Mueller’s team is frustrated with, but reporting from The Washington Post filled in the blanks: “…members of Mueller’s team have complained to close associates that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant.” NBC News’ Ken Dilanian expanded on that reporting, covering the collusion aspect:
2. Finally: The moment many Democrats have been waiting for has finally arrived. Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) has formally requested six years of President Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Rep. Neal is using No. 6103 in the tax code. The New York Times reports:
The provision, which dates in some form to the Teapot Dome scandal of Warren G. Harding’s administration, at least on its face gives the Trump administration little room to decline a request like Mr. Neal’s. It only says that the Treasury secretary “shall” furnish the information.
Rep. Neal gave the IRS until April 10th to comply. Secretary Steve Mnuchin has previously stated he would seek to protect President Trump if his tax returns were requested. When asked about Rep. Neal’s request, President Trump used his debunked audit excuse for not releasing his tax returns then said he’s “not inclined” to release them (the request was not to him personally). If the Trump administration denies the request, a long court battle is expected to ensue. Read more about what we already know about Trump’s finances.
In other news…
- CNN: House panel authorizes subpoena for Mueller report as Trump backs away from calls for public release
- Talking Points Memo: House Intel Requests Info, Interview From Top Trump Inaugural Planner
- The Washington Post: Republicans change Senate rules to speed nominations as leaders trade charges of hypocrisy
- The Washington Post: Jared Kushner identified as senior White House official whose security clearance was denied by career officials
Mar-A-Lago’s Counterintelligence Nightmare
Day 805: Thursday, April 4
While most presidents spent time away from Washington at Camp David or their private residences, President Trump opts for his own businesses. This past weekend, President Trump was once again at Mar-a-Lago, his golf club in Palm Beach, Florida. This trip marked his 177th day at a Trump golf club and his 236th day at a Trump property since becoming president. Not only do Trump’s trips to his own properties cost taxpayer dollars while profiting his own business, they pose a national security risk that appears to be growing by the week.
Golfing wasn’t the only thing that happened at Mar-a-Lago this past weekend. A Chinese national named Yujing Zhang was arrested at Mar-a-Lago with several cell phones, a laptop, and a thumb drive that had “malicious malware” on it. While Trump was out golfing, Zhang gained access to the club after a Mar-a-Lago staffer thought she was a relative of one of the guests. After Zhang entered the main building, a club receptionist managed to figure out Zhang was claiming to be there for an event that wasn’t taking place. The receptionist flagged Secret Service agents who then arrested her after she got “verbally aggressive.”
This comes after another Mar-a-Lago guest, Cindy Yang, was reportedly selling Chinese nationals access to President Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Yang is the same woman who owned the massage parlor where Robert Kraft is being charged with soliciting prostitution.
According to the Miami Herald, the FBI has launched a counterintelligence investigation into whether China is waging intelligence operations targeting Mar-a-Lago and President Trump. It includes Zhang and Yang’s conduct. The probe comes amid fears that if an operative gains access to Trump associates and the Mar-a-Lago property itself, they could not only glean insight into the President’s thinking, they could plant recording devices or conduct other spying activities. There are major espionage risks.
A Secret Service official told CNN that when it comes to Mar-a-Lago, “Access remains an issue. It continues to be an issue.” Secret Service agents are stuck between a rock and a Trump place when it comes to Trump properties. While their main objective is to protect the President, they also have to abide by the private property owner’s rules. Which means hundreds of Mar-a-Lago members are able to pay to gain access to the President. And as we’ve seen in the past, that has caused some problematic national security risks.
In February of 2017, President Trump coordinated his response to a North Korean missile test in open view at an unsecured dinner table in Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This all occurred in clear view of resort guests, with staff using the flashlights on their phones to help illuminate the sensitive documents. Pictures of the episode popped up on Facebook. After the ordeal, then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer said those discussions occurred in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility). This was clearly not the case:
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray this week, Senate Democrats rang the alarm: “As the White House Communications Agency and Secret Service continue to establish several secure areas at Mar-a-Lago for handling classified information when the president travels there, these potential vulnerabilities have serious national security implications.”
In other news…
- NBC News: Mueller’s Findings Show Trump’s Campaign Was Manipulated By Russian Intelligence
- Business Insider: The House Judiciary Committee requests records of communications between Mueller and DOJ following reports of a rift between the two
The New York Times: U.S. Role in Yemen War Will End Unless Trump Issues Second Veto
- Buzzfeed News: FBI Director Broke With Trump And Said White Supremacy Is A “Persistent, Pervasive Threat” To The US
The Washington Post: Democrats’ bill forces GOP to choose between NRA and protecting women
- NBC News: Trump gives Mexico one year warning to stop drugs before tariffs, border closure
- Axios Scoop: Trump expected to name Herman Cain to Federal Reserve board
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Trump Goes Full MAGA On Immigration
Day 806: Thursday, April 5
On Friday, President Trump once again discussed the idea of ending due process rights for migrants seeking asylum at the southern border. This time, however, Trump went further. Before his trip to the southern border today, President Trump told reporters:
“Congress has to act . . . they have to get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work. And frankly we should get rid of judges.”
To be clear, the asylum process is protected by law. Later in the day, President Trump doubled down on this call and went on to spread fear-mongering lies about asylum seekers.
TRUMP: “This is our new statement- the system is full. We can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum or anything you want – illegal immigration – we can’t take you anymore. Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full. Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. Turn around” pic.twitter.com/W1Bjnnf7UR
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 5, 2019
TRUMP: “Asylum – you know, I look at some of these asylum people, they’re gang members. They’re not afraid of anything. They have lawyers greeting them. They read what lawyers tell them to read…they say, ‘I fear for my life.’ They’re the ones causing fear for life. It’s a scam” pic.twitter.com/2RDowBcAkg
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 5, 2019
These comments come after President Trump threatened to close the southern border and moved to cut aid from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. That move would only exacerbate the poor conditions in those nations, leading to even more immigration to the US border.
It’s important to note that much of the crisis at the southern border was manufactured by President Trump’s own policies of metering, turning away migrants from legal ports of entry, and his previous migrant family separation policy of “zero tolerance” which led to a surge in migrant detention. Now, rather than increase the number of immigration judges which would ease the backlog at the border, Trump is calling for their removal.
White nationalists believe in creating a white ethnostate and “peaceful ethnic cleansing”. Like the white supremacist terrorist in New Zealand who called Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity”, white nationalists have expressed support for President Trump for a reason. President Trump has called for building a wall at the southern border, increased ICE deportations, claimed immigrants at the southern border are “infesting” America, and exaggerated claims of drugs and crime pouring in over the border. These hostile words towards Latinx immigrants are clear dog whistles that translate to “preserve the white majority.”
Aside from the rhetoric that emboldens white nationalists, President Trump and his administration have downplayed the threat. In spite of the rise of white supremacist terrorist attacks, President Trump even reportedly shut down the domestic terror intelligence unit.
The politics of Trump’s immigration stances are clear. President Trump wants a crisis at the border. He has a vested interest in seeing a surge of desperate migrants so he can propagandize those images and run on the wall (he’s failed to build) again in 2020.
In other news…
- The Washington Post: Trump lawyer calls on Treasury to reject Democrats’ demand for tax returns until Justice Dept. weighs in
The New York Times: Trump Asked That Confirmation of I.R.S. Counsel Be a Priority
- Buzzfeed News: In New Documents, Cohen Says Trump “Instructed” Him To Lie
- The Guardian: DoJ officials told of Barr meeting on day he submitted memo critical of Mueller
- NPR: Trump Administration’s Census Citizenship Question Plans Halted By 3rd Judge
- NBC News: Trump to skip White House Correspondents’ Dinner for thirdyear in a row
- CNN: Mnuchin failed to comply with ethics rules in financial disclosure, watchdog says
Donna Borak byline
- Quartz: Robert Mueller will be leaving the Department of Justice in “coming days”
- HuffPost: Trump DHS Official Suggested Antifascists Were ‘The Actual Threats’
- The New York Times: U.S. Revokes Visa of I.C.C. Prosecutor Pursuing Afghan War Crimes
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. 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 our newsletter or joining our community chatroom where you can talk news with our team and other like-minded individuals: