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Sidetracked: Trump Diaries, Week 8

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The first seven weeks of Trump were overshadowed by the Russian connection.  In the eighth week the picture begins to get muddled.  A bizarre allegation that former President Obama personally wiretapped Trump Tower reset the table.  We know that former Director of National Security Michael Flynn was recorded discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador.  We assume other conversations were recorded as well.

This story cannot remain vital without new and engaging information.  If someone in the intelligence community has personal knowledge of the content of communications between Trump personnel and the Russians, it is imperative that they come forward.  If there was collusion between a presidential candidate and a foreign interloper, it is a matter of the highest security to reveal it and reveal it now before any further damage can be done.  If nothing of substance lies beneath this scandal, it is equally imperative to clear this president and get on with the business of government.

The Trump administration is desperate to proceed with its agenda but they are perpetually looking over their shoulders.  The new and improved Muslim ban is being challenged in court.  No one likes the Republican proposal to repeal and replace Obama care.  The Trump White House appears supremely incompetent.

This is the eighth installment of the Trump Diaries.

DAY 50:  PURGE AT JUSTICE

March 10, 2017

Coming on the heels of the purge at the State Department, the Trump administration requests the resignation of 46 remaining US Attorneys appointed by Barrack Obama.  The White House sites Attorney General Janet Reno’s purge in 1993 as precedent but the more valid comparison might be Nixon’s purge in 1973 – a failed attempt to bury the Watergate cover up.

It’s easy to see what’s really going on:  The White House is so paranoid it sees enemies in every corner, in every shadow and behind every tree.  Unfortunately, the ship of state doesn’t sail itself.  Trump can’t fire everyone.

The Labor Department releases positive job growth numbers.  In the first month of the Trump presidency, unemployment falls to 4.7 percent.

No word from Trump on the “real” unemployment rate which he has previously estimated as anywhere from twelve to forty-two percent.

DAY 51:  DEFENDING TRUMPCARE

March 11, 2017

The president’s charm initiative with the far right is falling short.  The Tea Party’s Freedom Caucus continues to express opposition despite reported dinners and bowling outings at the White House.

In a measure of how desperate Trump is to claim a legislative victory, he reportedly threatened to support primary opponents of any Republican who opposes the bill. [1] The White House, however, objects to calling the reform Trumpcare. [2]

So the man who has his name on everything from red meat to golf resorts, the man who values his brand above all else doesn’t want his name on Republican healthcare.  That’s a picture worth more than a thousand words.

DAY 52:  UNFAIR TRADE

March 12, 2017

As Air Emirates begins an Athens to Newark flight, United Airlines accuses the Middle Eastern carriers of unfair competition.  Air Emirates is government owned and heavily subsidized.  If allowed to charge lower fares and absorb the loss, it could push domestic airlines out of business.

This is a test case of President Trump’s understanding of fair trade.  The Emirates fails on virtually all grounds.  It does not allow unions, provides substandard wages, minimal benefits and is subsidized by the government.

DAY 53:  THE COST OF TRUMPCARE

March 13, 2017

A New York Times report reveals how seriously understaffed the Trump administration remains eight weeks into its reign.  At all levels of operation positions have gone unfilled not only at the EPA and the Stare Department but also at the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration, Customs and Border Protection.  On the positive side, the president’s policies cannot be implemented without administrative personnel so the air and the water might get a temporary reprieve.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that Trumpcare will result in an increase of 24 million people without health insurance by 2026.  It will reduce the deficit by $337 billion over ten years and mitigate the increase in premiums by ten percent over the same period while increasing deductibles and out-of-pocket spending.

While some Republicans are encouraged by the prospect of reducing the deficit, the effect on premiums is severely disappointing.  If you eliminate coverage for poor, sick people you ought to be able to do more than mitigate the increase by a negligible ten percent.  Moreover, the bill dumps some fourteen million from the insured rolls by next year.  The costs of Trumpcare are mounting.

If this law or anything like it passes – a prospect that is becoming less likely by the day – we will soon discover that the CBO report was extremely optimistic.  For most of the voting public, this is less care for more money and it would trigger a voter revolt.

Trump signs an executive order announcing his intention to reorganize the government, making it sleeker and more efficient.  Get real, Donald, you want to emasculate the government and you don’t need an executive order to do it.  It’s done.

DAY 54:  TRUMP’S 2005 TAX RETURN

March 14, 2017

An unknown party released the first two pages of Donald Trump’s 2005 federal tax return.  Trump paid $38 million on $152 million in income.  It’s just another distraction on a slow news day in Trumpland.

A full hour of coverage on the Rachel Maddow show was reminiscent of Al Capone’s vault.  It added nothing to our knowledge and damaged the credibility of its sponsor.

DAY 55:  THE RUSSIAN HACK

March 15, 2017

The Justice Department indicts two Russian spies and two “criminal hackers” in the hacking of an estimated 500 million Yahoo accounts.  The Russians are members of the Federal Security Service (formerly KGB) assigned to its cyber investigation unit.

If you have a Yahoo account it might be time to consider alternatives.  The indictment may be designed to demonstrate the Trump administration’s willingness to take action against their Russian counterparts.

The Federal Reserve pushes the base interest rate up a quarter point to one percent as the Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to zoom upward.  Are we creating the bubble of all bubbles or is the economy fundamentally strong and getting stronger?  The age of deregulation on steroids is upon us.

Dan Coats wins senate confirmation as Trump’s new Director of National Intelligence.  The former Indiana senator testified that cyber security is a top priority.  No shit, Sherlock.

A federal court in Hawaii put a hold on the new and improved Muslim travel ban, serving notice that the constitution will not yield to the president’s mandate on bigotry.  A federal court in Maryland backs up the finding.

DAY 56:  DECONSTRUCTION BUDGET

March 16, 2017

The White House releases a budget designed to “deconstruct the administrative state” in the immortal words of Steve Bannon.  Missing is any mention of infrastructure spending as the document calls for massive cuts to the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and various lib state programs such as Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.  All savings will go to the police state, the wall and the military machine.

Trump has made it clear he despises career diplomats.  He seems to believe he can handle all negotiations large and small.  How’s that working out with the judiciary, Donald?

The president and the president’s spokesman assert hard and strong that the Obama administration conducted surveillance involving the Russians and the Trump campaign.  That is the point.  The Department of Justice, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had reason to monitor and record communications with the Trump team and an antagonist foreign entity.  The question is not whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign but whether or not such surveillance was justified.

The Bannon crowd has succeeded in reframing the debate.  Mainstream media has burrowed in.  They have staked a position that any such surveillance was improper and did not occur.  Let us assume that Trump and his people were under surveillance in communication with the Russians.  Let us assume that those interactions involved collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign as alleged by the Dirty Dossier of Christopher Steele.

Given the current frame we are less likely to get to the essential truth.  It is now entirely possible that the president will get away with one of the most outrageous efforts to defraud an American election in history.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and other prominent news sources have put their credibility on the line.  If they cannot produce evidence of collusion, if they cannot reveal the contents of communications between Russia and the Trump team then they have failed to deliver as promised.

I continue to believe that collusion took place and our democracy has been compromised but the probability of exposing the crime is reduced with every passing day.

1/ “Report: Trump threatens to primary any conservative who opposes health care replacement bill” by Chris Enloe. The Blaze, March 11, 2017.

2/ “White House: Don’t call it Trumpcare” by Matthew Nussbaum and Jennifer Haberkorn. Politico, March 8, 2017.

3/ “Trump’s lack of action leaves key offices vacant” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Sharon Lafraniere. NY Times, March 13, 2017.

 

Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

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