Monday, December 11, 2017

Sunday week in review

What else did Donald Trump do today?

FBI. Trump's criticism of the FBI forced his directorial appointee, Christopher Wray, into the probably unprecedented position of defending the nation's federal police force against its own president. Wray sent FBI staff an e-mail expressing his support on Monday, and again in his testimony before Congress on Thursday.

Trump said last week that the reputation of the FBI was in "tatters," as part of a public relations campaign to discredit whatever it or its former director, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, may find regarding Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election. 

Novel legal theories. Donald Trump Jr. spent much of Wednesday behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russia's attempts to get his father elected. By the rules of the committee, what he talked about isn't clear, but members can discuss with the press what he refused to talk about. Trump Jr. was unwilling to discuss a conversation he had with his father during the apparent attempt to cover up his June 2016 meeting with Russian agents--the ones who had provoked an enthusiastic response from him when they promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Since the nature of that conversation is likely to incriminate at least Trump Jr., his refusal to answer is not surprising. But the nature of his refusal is: he claimed that talking with his father was subject to attorney-client privilege.

Neither man is a lawyer.

What is in a name. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has not been expected to run for re-election in 2018, but Trump made efforts this week to get the 83-year-old into the race. The reason is that if Hatch doesn't run, one likely candidate to replace him is former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The two do not like one another: in March of 2016, when it still seemed possible to avert a Trump nomination, Romney gave a heavily publicized speech in which he called Trump a "phony," a "fraud," and a "con man"--among other things.

It was also revealed this week that when Trump appointed Mitt Romney's niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel, to chair the Republican National Committee, he did so on the condition that she stop using her middle name in public.

Regulations. At his Pensacola rally for Roy Moore, Trump praised himself for his skill at cutting regulations--something he usually presents as a good thing no matter what regulations are being undone--and embellished it with an interesting if absurd claim: that only President Lincoln had come anywhere close.

It's not clear what, if anything, Trump had in mind by this beyond wanting to compare himself favorably to Lincoln--something he does a lot. One of the "job killing regulations" put in place by President Obama that Trump axed this week was one requiring airlines to fully disclose baggage fees to customers before a ticket is purchased.

The White House did not comment on how many jobs would be saved by surprise baggage fees.

Business. Trump's business empire expanded into Indonesia this week. Trump's name will go up over a proposed "six-star" hotel, golf course, and luxury resort, according to a report made this week.

This violates a promise Trump made shortly before taking office that he would not enter into "new deals" with foreign business interests. Trump remains the direct beneficiary of any money his businesses make, which makes lucrative deals like this an easy way to buy influence. But in his defense, it will not be any easier for Indonesia to do so than the Dominican Republic, Dubai and China, or any of the new foreign customers of his existing businesses that he now says it is too much trouble to keep track of.

Why are these bad things?

  • A president who does not have faith in the integrity of his own government should leave it.
  • Things a president does or says in possible furtherance of a crime are not secret just because he (or his son) really needs them to be.
  • Making someone renounce their family name just to keep a job is a pretty shitty thing to do.
  • It's bad if a president doesn't keep his promises.
  • It shouldn't be this easy to make it look like the President of the United States can be bought.