A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 116th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

President Trump is embracing his worst authoritarian tendencies and his team of sycophants are enabling him every step of the way.

President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (AP and Official Photos)

President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (AP and Official Photos)

Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is emblematic 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 116.

The President the Founding Fathers feared is here. The Constitution was crafted to protect the American people from a wannabe monarch who would corruptly use his power to protect his interests, financially enrich himself, and drift America towards autocracy. But the Constitution fails when there is no one willing to enforce it.

This week was different. America’s institutions are being tested, the rule of law is being strained, and the constitutional mechanisms put in place to ensure checks and balances appear to be failing. The President of the United States appears hell-bent on consolidating his power at any cost, even if that cost is America’s democratic system as we know it. Unfortunately, none of this is hyperbole.

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The lawlessness the Trump administration has displayed over the last two years is picking up speed. After Attorney General William Barr took it upon himself to clear the President of obstruction of justice, Trump appears emboldened. President Trump has never been one to hide his corruption and frustration with America’s democratic processes, but this week things went up several notches.

Multiple reports, and President Trump’s own tweets, revealed the extent to which the Trump administration has endeavored to violate immigration law. President Trump reportedly asked then-CBP head Kevin McAleena to violate the law by closing the border, then offered him a pardon if he were to be jailed for doing so. Trump denied the reports and threatened to order DHS officials to violate the law – in one tweet.

President Trump reportedly pressured DHS officials to begin releasing migrants in sanctuary cities to punish Democrats. After being told the act would be unlawful in February, the move was no longer being considered. After reports of the proposal were published this week, President Trump revived the idea on Twitter. The Trump administration has reportedly discussed the unlawful idea of having the US Military build and run migrant tent cities. President Trump also mused about the idea of the military getting violent with asylum seekers. Amid all of these acts, President Trump and Stephen Miller are purging the top brass of the DHS.

Throughout this week, President Trump accused Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of committing treason for their legal investigation into Russia’s attack on US democracy. The demonization of the rule of law itself has been a recurring theme of this administration, and painting those who enforce it as treasonous is a tactic straight out of the authoritarian playbook.

What makes President Trump’s corrupt behavior more troubling are the sycophantic people and organizations enabling him. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is unlawfully denying the House Ways and Means Committee’s request for six years of President Trump’s tax returns. The Republican Party is standing by President Trump’s every move, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to fill the judiciary with Trump-appointed judges. Fox News remains a full-blown propaganda arm for the White House.

Attorney General William Barr’s hearings this week further solidified his role as a Trump stooge when he poured gasoline on the White House’s debunked “Spygate” conspiracy theory and said he would review the conduct of the FBI. Barr refused to answer when asked if he briefed the White House on Mueller’s report. It’s since been reported the White House has been briefed.

President Trump appears to be committing impeachable abuses of power on a weekly basis. What will the Democrats do in response to this unprecedented corruption?

While we wait for the likely release of the redacted Mueller report and House Democrats’ next move, let’s look back at yet 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:

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The Purge

Day 809: Monday, April 8

Then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen standing with President Donald Trump as he holds up an executive order he signed to end family separations in the Oval Office - June 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller (Gage Skidmore)

Then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen standing with President Donald Trump as he holds up an executive order he signed to end family separations in the Oval Office – June 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller (Gage Skidmore)

Before President Trump signed the executive order (pictured above) ending his “zero tolerance” policy of migrant family separation, he claimed he didn’t want families to be separated. After at least 2,700 migrant children were taken from their parents and detained. Reports claimed that the images of crying children got to him. Other reports claimed Melania and Ivanka Trump appealed to his humanity and that’s why he ended the policy. We now know definitively that those were false narratives.

On Sunday, Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced out of her position in an ouster partially engineered by White House Senior Adviser (and immigration hardliner) Stephen Miller. As DHS Secretary, Nielsen has overseen a department that is currently detaining at least 48,000 immigrants, that lied about the administration’s migrant family separation policy, had migrant children die in their custody, and has been plagued by reports of forced miscarriages and abuse at migrant detention centers.

Nielsen and Trump have reportedly been at odds for months. President Trump has blamed her for the migrant surges at the border, even though his own policy of metering is partially responsible for the backlog. It was also reported that one of the reasons Nielsen was pushed out is because she resisted President Trump’s efforts to institute an expanded version of his migrant family separation policy. The expanded policy wouldn’t just separate the families of undocumented immigrants, but legal asylum seekers as well. According to CNN, Nielsen reportedly protested on the legal, not moral, merits of the policy:

According to multiple sources, the President wanted families separated even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. The President wanted families separated even if they were apprehended within the US. He thinks the separations work to deter migrants from coming.

Sources told CNN that Nielsen tried to explain they could not bring the policy back because of court challenges, and White House staffers tried to explain it would be an unmitigated PR disaster.

This comes as Stephen Miller seeks to consolidate his influence in the administration and eyes an even more hardline position on immigration. CBS News reports:

U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles was fired Monday, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Cissna, DHS undersecretary for management Claire Grady and DHS general counsel John Mitnick are also leaving the administration. The officials’ departures are part of a system-wide purge of senior management at DHS as top Trump adviser Stephen Miller looks to overhaul immigration-related policy and personnel.

Claire Grady was fired to clear the way for the current head of the Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan to take the role of acting head of DHS. This was nothing less than a full-fledged purge. NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams said earlier today on MSNBC that this is the most disorganized the DHS has been since its creation in 2002. For a President that claims national security is his highest priority, he appears hell-bent on crippling one of the departments responsible for protecting it.

Just today, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s policy that sought to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico. In the past couple of weeks, President Trump has called for the border to be closed, defamed asylum seekers as criminals, called for the asylum process to be shut down entirely, and said we need to “get rid of judges”. According to CNN, President Trump went as far as to ask border patrol agents to violate the law:

Last Friday, the President visited Calexico, California, where he said, “We’re full, our system’s full, our country’s full — can’t come in! Our country is full, what can you do? We can’t handle any more, our country is full. Can’t come in, I’m sorry. It’s very simple.”

Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.”

After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.

President Trump is once again bumping against the restraints of the rule of law in his endeavor to fire up his anti-immigrant base. Meanwhile, the Republican Party stands firmly behind him.

In other news…

William Barr’s Unanswered Question

Day 810: Tuesday, April 9

Attorney General William Barr - 26 February 2019 (Department of Justice)

Attorney General William Barr – 26 February 2019 (Department of Justice)

Today, the House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) held a hearing on the Justice Department’s budget. Since this was Attorney General William Barr’s first appearance since the release of his controversial summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, there were several questions on the investigation.

Multiple reports ahead of the hearing added fuel to the mounting skepticism among Democrats and the American public (as polling indicated). In his 4-page summary of Mueller’s nearly 400-page report, Barr took it upon himself to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice despite the fact that Mueller did not reach a conclusion. Some investigators on Mueller’s team reportedly feel that Barr downplayed their findings. They’ve reportedly told associates that Barr mischaracterized their “alarming and significant” evidence of obstruction of justice. Some on Mueller’s team also reportedly believe that although they did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the evidence of collusion they gathered was “compelling”. Barr also didn’t release the summaries Mueller’s team reportedly drafted for the public to see.

These concerns drove the questions from many Democrats on the committee. Some key moments during the hearing included when Barr said he will not provide the full unredacted Mueller report to Congress, when he stated he will release a redacted version of the report within a week, when he refused to answer a question about whether President Trump has seen the report, and when he claimed he is reviewing the conduct of the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Perhaps most notably, Barr refused to answer a question about whether the White House has been briefed on Mueller’s report. The Attorney General insisted that he won’t talk about the report until it’s released. This is significant because Barr has previously assured the public the White House hadn’t seen the report, but wouldn’t provide that same assurance today. Given Trump’s recent shifts in tone concerning the release of the report, the American people should know if the White House was read in. Later, Barr continued answering questions about the report, which makes this exchange seem even more like a dodge of that specific question.

Barr made some news when he claimed that he offered Mueller the opportunity to review his 4-page summary before he released it and that Mueller declined.

After testifying that the Inspector General investigation into the FISA process will be finished by June, Barr made some waves when he appeared to claim he was going to make a GOP dream come true. Reporting later confirmed that Barr has formed a team for this purpose.

Additionally, there was one response from Barr about hate crimes that raised eyebrows. Rather than acknowledging that hate crimes rose during the Trump administration, Barr claimed to be ignorant of data from his own department that found a 17% rise in hate crimes in 2017. Was Barr trying to protect the image of President Trump?

There was also an interesting moment where Barr apparently indicated that he doesn’t believe the DOJ’s argument that Obamacare should be invalidated will prove to be successful.

Attorney General William Barr’s dodgy behavior did nothing to assure Americans that he is playing an objective role in this process. Barr said he will redact info pertaining to “peripheral” characters that were not charged. How much info will he redact concerning the President? We will see if he delivers a substantial amount of the report to Congress in the coming days or if House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will have to use the subpoena powers his committee voted to authorize.

In other news…

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The Resurrection Of Spygate

Day 811: Wednesday, April 10

From left: Attorney General William Barr, President Donald Trump, and former Campaign Adviser Carter Page.

From left: Attorney General William Barr, President Donald Trump, and former Campaign Adviser Carter Page.

After yesterday’s House Appropriations Committee hearing, we published an article headlined: Barr Just Showed Americans Why They Shouldn’t Trust Him. Today’s hearing made that headline look like an understatement. Attorney General William Barr appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee and made several troubling claims showcasing the extent of his partisanship.

We could spend the duration of this article discussing how Barr refused to say Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation isn’t an illegal witch hunt. We could also talk about how Barr acknowledged Mueller didn’t ask him to make the decision to clear Trump of obstruction of justice. Instead, we are going to thoroughly dissect the newly resurrected conspiracy theory that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign.

Today, Barr made a very poor choice of words, claiming that he thinks “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign.

When he was pressed, he claimed “I have no specific evidence that I would cite right now. I do have questions about it.” Later in the hearing, when offered the opportunity to clarify, Barr walked back his claim entirely, stating: “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying that I am concerned about it and I’m looking into it.”

Unfortunately, the damage was done. Right-wing and mainstream media outlets ran with damning headlines.

As we know, this “Spygate” conspiracy theory was originally started by President Trump and House Republicans when Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA-22) was still House Intelligence Committee Chairman. Remember the infamous “Nunes memo”? In a nutshell, “Spygate” is based on the false idea that the FISA surveillance of former Trump Campaign Adviser Carter Page was politically motivated, that the FISA court was misled, and the warrant was based on the Christopher Steele dossier. As we know, none of that is true.

First off, Carter Page was no longer a member of the campaign when his FISA warrant was renewed, he was a suspected Russian asset as far back as 2014, and his warrant was based on actionable intel. A redacted version of Carter Page’s entire FISA application was released last year and disproved President Trump’s talking points. Let’s dissect further:

Debunking “Spygate”

In July of 2018, the redacted FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) application for Carter Page, and its three subsequent renewals, were released. This was the first time the Justice Department released a FISA application to the public.

In February of 2018, Nunes, who is the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, released a memo that argued Trump’s campaign was wrongfully spied on. It was later revealed that Nunes didn’t read the underlying intelligence the memo was summarizing.

After the release of these 412 pages of FISA documents, which proved these claims to be false, President Trump, House Republicans, and conservative media continued to push this false narrative. Their claims have never stacked up to the facts.

The FISA Warrants Were Not Wrongfully Obtained Or Politically Motivated

The FISA application, and its subsequent renewals, were approved by four Republican-appointed judges. In order to successfully obtain a FISA warrant for FBI surveillance, one needs to demonstrate probable cause that a crime was committed. The application noted: “[T]here is probable cause that such activities involve or are about to involve violations of the criminal statutes of the United States.”

Carter Page had been a subject of FISA surveillance as far back as 2014 (before the Trump campaign) and was the subject of repeated FBI questioning, and over 10 hours of questioning by congressional investigators in 2017. The FISA application documents detailed why by outlining suspicions that Carter Page was an asset of the Russian government. Carter Page came under surveillance again after Page already left the campaign, so that contradicts Trump’s claim that his campaign was spied on.

The October 2016 FISA application renewal notes that “The F.B.I. believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government” and “that the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with” the Trump campaign (the applications refer to Trump as Candidate #1). Page’s conduct demonstrated the warrant’s approval, and subsequent renewals, were not politically motivated, but rather due to real concerns.

Background: Carter Page was a former adviser to candidate Trump until the Trump campaign distanced themselves from him after his Russia ties were reported on. Page is the founder of Global Energy Capital, an investment firm in New York, where he partnered with Sergei Yatsenk. Yatsenk is a former Gazprom executive, a Kremlin-owned energy company Page did business with during the time he lived in Russia from 2004–2007.

Carter Page became a subject of the Trump-Russia probe due to his campaign-approved trip to Moscow in July of 2016 to meet with Igor Sechinthe chairman of the Russia State-owned oil company Rosneft, and may have discussed the prospect of lifting sanctions on Russia. Page also met with Russian spy Victor Podobnyy in 2013, Russians have reportedly attempted to cultivate Page as a way to infiltrate the Trump campaign, and Page has admitted to communications with Russians during the campaign.

The FISA Court Was Not Misled, And The Dossier Did Not Trigger The Russia Investigation

The central claim of Nunes’ original memo which perpetuated “Spygate” was that the FISA courts were misled about British spy Christopher Steele’s role, and that the courts were not aware that the Trump-Russia dossier was political research.

There’s an entire page in the initial FISA application that discusses this, countering Nunes’ claim. In it, the DNC isn’t specifically named just like Trump wasn’t explicitly named. This is called masking, which is the proper way classified intelligence is concealed. Nunes and Trump once raised a scandal around the “unmasking” of names in 2017. After this was released, it appeared they were arguing for the contrary.

Trump’s and the GOP’s claiming that the Christopher Steele Dossier is what sparked the Russia investigation is a repeated talking point of Republicans and conservative media. As has been widely reported, George Papadopoulos bragging about the fact Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton to an Australian diplomat is what triggered the investigation. Chris Wallace of Fox News has debunked the claim about the dossier and Nunes’ own February 2018 memo outlines it as well:

To Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-OH-4) tweet about the dossier not being credible, Nunes’ memo mentions that the dossier was partially corroborated by the FBI (full memo text here.)

In summary, President Trump, the Republican Party, and conservative media’s continued claim that the Trump campaign was wrongfully spied on is simply not true.

In other news…

Using Migrants As Pawns For Political Retribution

Day 812: Thursday, April 11

President Trump and Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller (AP)

President Trump and Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller (AP)

Today, The Washington Post published an article that you’ll have to read to believe. It is one of the most extreme moves the Trump administration has considered to take since child separation:

White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities” to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post.

There were reportedly at least two versions of the plan. One included targeting the districts of Democratic opponents like Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) in San Francisco and the other included large cities like New York and Chicago. CNN reported that President Trump personally pushed then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to implement the proposal.

The proposal, broached in an email with the subject line “Sanctuary City Proposal”, was reportedly proposed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in November 2018 when the migrant caravan was approaching the border and recirculated again in February amid the budget standoff. Behind the plan was Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller, who met with ICE on both occasions to discuss the proposal. ICE rejected the plan. Miller’s involvement is not surprising and should be taken as a sign of how extreme this administration will get on immigration with him at the helm of their policy.

The Washington Post article goes on to quote a DHS official who further expanded on the rationale behind the proposal:

“It was retaliation, to show them, ‘Your lack of cooperation has impacts,’ ” said one of the DHS officials, summarizing the rationale. “I think they thought it would put pressure on those communities to understand, I guess, a different perspective on why you need more immigration money for detention beds.”

During the February budget standoff, a whistleblower reportedly came to Congress revealing the plan and subsequently a second official came forward as well. The plan is reportedly no longer in consideration but shows how far the Trump administration is willing to go to punish who they identify as “enemies”, even if it means using human beings as pawns.

In other news…

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Absolute Lawlessness

Day 813: Thursday, April 12

President Donald Trump listens during an event on immigration at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Friday, June 22, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump listens during an event on immigration at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Friday, June 22, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The news of President Trump’s lawlessness when it comes to immigration has conquered the news cycle this week. And now, we have another story. Expanding on earlier reporting, CNN and The New York Times both reported that in his visit to Calexico, CA last week, President Trump not only asked the head of CBP to violate the law, he offered a pardon. Jake Tapper of CNN reported:

President Donald Trump told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan he would grant McAleenan a pardon if he were sent to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the US in defiance of US law, senior administration officials tell CNN.

Two officials briefed on the exchange say the President told McAleenan, since named the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants,” as one of the officials paraphrased.

You read that correctly. The President of the United States reportedly told the top CBP official to violate the law and then offered a pardon if he were held accountable for executing the unlawful order. This isn’t the first unlawful request President Trump reportedly made while in Calexico.

CNN also reported that President Trump told border patrol agents to not allow migrants to cross the border at all and to tell judges America is at full capacity. CNN continues:

After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.

Those are just a few of the reports this week that paint the picture of a President who appears hell-bent on violating the law. Yesterday, multiple reports revealed that President Trump tried to order DHS to begin releasing detained migrants into sanctuary cities to punish Democrats. This sparked fierce backlash. The White House initially denied the reports. But then, President Trump tweeted that they are still considering this approach. Trump appears fixated on this idea in spite of the fact DHS rejected the proposal and the fact lawyers told the White House the move would “run afoul of the law”.

This news comes amid a purge at the DHS, engineered by Stephen Miller, which included then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who was pushed out in part for not reimplementing the child separation policy at Trump’s urging. Nielsen cited court challenges as the reason she couldn’t separate migrant families again.

Democrats need to get serious about what their next move is. President Trump is running an objectively lawless administration and it only appears to be getting worse. If House Democrats don’t rein in Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, who will?

In other news…

  • President Trump attacked Ilhan Omar…again.

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:

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Unpresidented // Authoritarianism / Corruption / Donald Trump / Immigration / William Barr