Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Week in Review

What else did Donald Trump do this week?

Even by Trump standards, it was a rough week.

Russia breaks Russia news. Trump spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin this week, in an unscheduled call that is public knowledge in the United States only because Russian state-run media reported on it. The White House did not announce the call or acknowledge it until it was outed by the Putin regime.

Trump is extremely sensitive to the fact that Russia's criminal interference on his behalf in the 2016 elections creates the perception that he is beholden to Putin, so even normal intergovernmental contacts between the US and Russia are affected. Trump seems to have decided that the answer is more secrecy regarding his and his administration's Russian contacts. 

The Putin regime, however, which benefits first and foremost from a weakened American government, has delighted in publicizing its meetings with Trump. Last month, a Russian intelligence chief who was already on the sanctions list--meaning he could not legally be admitted to the US under normal circumstances--met with American officials. Since Sergey Naryshkin was likely involved in the very criminal conspiracy that supported Trump, the Trump administration was anxious to keep the meeting secret, but the Russian Embassy itself tweeted out news of the visit.

Paying for sex (I). This week, Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen admitted that he paid porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000--or, rather, that he "facilitated payment" to her through a Delaware LLC. Daniels had told several media outlets the story of her sexual encounter with Trump early in his marriage to Melania, but recently was subject to a nondisclosure agreement that prevented her from repeating them. (Daniels' lawyer believes that Cohen's acknowledgement of the payment violates that agreement, and says that she will once again confirm the affair and the lengths that Trump went to in order to conceal it.)

Paying for sex (II and III). Also this week, former Playboy model Karen McDougal confirmed to journalist Ronan Farrow that she had written an eight-page account of her sexual encounters with Trump (during his most recent marriage), for which Trump offered to pay her money. McDougal also said that she had been subsequently paid by a Trump ally in the publishing industry for the exclusive rights to the story of any physical relationship she had ever had with any "then-married man."

McDougal is not well known, and Trump is the only "then-married man" she has ever been linked to. The contract for her story--which prevents her or anyone else from telling it--is with a company owned by David Pecker. Pecker is a close friend and political ally of Trump's, and the publisher of the National Enquirer, which has used the "catch and kill" technique of buying up unflattering news about Trump before.

Farrow's article includes the revelation that Trump reportedly had a sexual encounter with a third adult entertainer, Jessica Drake, and offered her $10,000 for "her company."

Trump's extramarital affairs are arguably a private matter, but the fact that he has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal them is problematic. Anything that Trump wanted badly enough to keep secret that he was willing to go to such elaborate lengths and expense to do so, is something that he can be blackmailed with. 

It remains unclear if, or how many other times, Trump's network of lawyers and publishers have swung into action to conceal his sexual encounters.

Golf alternative. Normally, Trump's aides work hard to keep reporters from being able to say with absolute certainty that Trump spent the weekend golfing--sequestering his press pool miles away from the golf courses he visits, putting reporters in rooms and then taping trash bags to windows, or even planting trees to prevent tiny glimpses of the course from being visible from public streets.

But in the wake of the mass murder in Parkland, Florida--very close to Trump's weekend home in Palm Beach--the Trump White House went out of its way to say that Trump would not be golfing, "out of respect" for the victims.

Instead of golfing, after a 20-minute appearance with first responders on Friday, Trump went to a literal disco dance party.

Imaginary factories. On Tuesday, Trump congratulated himself on a GM factory in Detroit that appears to exist only in his imagination. Speaking from the White House, Trump said this:
GM in Korea announces a first step in necessary restructuring. They're, um, going to, GM Korea company announced today that it will cease production and close its --- plant in may of 2018 and they're going to move back to Detroit. You don't hear these things, except for the fact that Trump became president, believe me, you wouldn't be hearing that. So they're moving back from Korea to Detroit.
But, as a spokesperson for General Motors confirmed, there are no plans to open a plant in Detroit, or move any of the jobs from the closing Korean plant there.

Trump frequently invents fake jobs in order to take credit for creating them.

School shootings means no Russia probe. Last night, Trump tweeted that the reason the FBI couldn't prevent the mass murder in Parkland was that they were too busy investigating the Russian attack on the 2016 election.

Whether Trump likes it or not, the FBI is a major part of the United States' counterintelligence capabilities. The agency overall has approximately 35,000 employees. The ones involved in processing firearm background checks are not interchangeable with the ones investigating attacks by foreign government on the United States.

Why do these things matter?

  • A president who can't act independently of a hostile foreign power is unfit for the office.
  • Americans should have to rely on Russia for information about its own government.
  • It's bad if the president is vulnerable to blackmail.
  • It's neither legal nor respectful to offer to pay a woman for sex.
  • Trading one form of leisure for another does nothing to "honor" mass murder victims.
  • Presidents should not lie about accomplishments that don't exist.
  • It's a problem if a president treats literally everything on his agenda, no matter how unrelated, as a way to escape from an ongoing criminal investigation.