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Saturday, March 25, 2017

TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK NINE 

 


FOOL ON THE HILL: 
THE TRUMP DIARIES:  WEEK NINE
63 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


On the ninth week of his presidency, the negotiator-in-chief went to congress to browbeat and cajole members of his own party into supporting his first legislative proposal:  A replacement for Obamacare. 

We are nearing the point where something has to give.  The presidency of Donald Trump has broken every norm, every rule and every standard of what we thought a presidency must be.  This is a president who not only reads supermarket tabloids but also believes in them as if they are messengers of the gods.  This is a president who throws out accusations of high crimes and misdemeanors in midnight rants and 4 am fits.  This is a president who believes that facts are malleable and truths are open to negotiation. 

This is a president who has not come to terms with the fundamentals of his responsibility as leader of the most powerful nation on earth. 

This is the ninth installment of the Trump Diaries. 

DAY 57:  INTERNATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT
March 17, 2017

A day after accusing British intelligence of spying on him at Trump Tower while he was a candidate, Trump forces German Chancellor Angela Merkel to endure a public appearance in the Oval Office in which he repeats his charge of wiretapping against the former president.  Trump referred to a 2013 incident in which the National Security Agency was exposed in listening in on Ms. Merkel’s phone conversations. 

The Chancellor was clearly embarrassed yet the Donald was clueless. 

DAY 58:  THE KOREAN PROBLEM
March 18, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson completes his first trip as Trump’s top diplomat, visiting Japan and China primarily to discuss the growing problem in North Korea.  Tillerson takes the hard line:  There will be no negotiations until Kim Jong Un stops testing missiles and nuclear technology.  Tillerson pronounces diplomacy a failure and expects China to do more.  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi advises Tillerson to play it cool. 

Trump the candidate played hardball with China, threatening to impose a hefty tariff on Chinese goods until they stop manipulating their currency.  As president Trump has played relatively nice with Beijing, agreeing after a false start to a one China policy and asking for China’s help on the Korean Peninsula.  Trump has also backed down on his early threat to stop China from accessing its artificial islands in the South China Sea.  China’s response was to call the new American president naïve – among other things. [1]

Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. President.  You might want to rethink firing all those career diplomats. 

DAY 59:  DISAPPROVAL RATING
March 19, 2107

The latest Gallup poll records a new low in presidential approval only eight weeks into his term.  Thirty seven percent approve of how the president is handling his job; fifty eight percent do not approve and the remaining five percent still don’t believe Trump was elected. [2]

In deference to the Trump administration, the Group of 20 Summit in Baden-Baden, Germany, concludes without a statement of support for Free Trade or a denunciation of economic isolationism.  The world is warned that Trump intends to use tariffs as trade leverage but he has not yet withdrawn from NAFTA or CAFTA. 

What are you waiting for, Donald? 

DAY 60:  COMEY TESTIFIES
March 20, 2017

FBI Director James Comey delivers a lesson in obfuscation before the House Intelligence Committee.  He confirms that there is an investigation into the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign regarding the presidential election.  He testifies that he has no information to confirm that Trump Tower was wiretapped by anyone. 

If you expected new information from the man who made Trump president you may also expect a pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. 

Texas representative Juan Castro reviewed the allegations of Christopher Steele’s Dirty Dossier while Comey portrayed a statue.  Castro raised the question of a recent mega deal involving the sale of a 19.5% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft to unknown entities through the Cayman Islands.  The stake was valued at 10.2 billion euros and involved an investment firm in Singapore, a bank in Italy and trading firms in Qatar and Switzerland.  The Steele Dossier alleges an offer of a large stake in Rosneft in exchange for lifting sanctions. [3]

The questions that should have been asked of Director Comey but were not:  1) Did anyone representing Russia or Russian interests contact you prior to your announced reopening of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails?  2) Are you beholden in any way to the Russian government or Russian interests? 3) Why was it appropriate for you to inform the public of the Clinton email investigation but not the ongoing Russian-Trump election connection investigation? 

Republicans decry leaks and deny softening their party platform on Ukraine as if they could knock down a mountain by tossing a pebble.  Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff of California effectively refutes the claim. 

The Trump administration’s connections to Russia begin to resemble the George W. Bush administration’s connections to Enron, the massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded California and the west coast out of billions of dollars.  Congress never held the White House accountable for those connections – perhaps because something happened on September 11th 2001 that caused us to forget a great many things. 

Neil Gorsuch delivers his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee in what will likely be a waltz to his confirmation as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.  Gorsuch has two primary purposes:  1) To uphold the corporate bias that defines the Roberts court and 2) to finally reward the religious right by voting to strike down a women’s right to abortion. 

We will observe a return to fecklessness by the Democrats as they give lip service to resistance but yield in the end.  This is why so few of us have any faith left in the party of opposition.  This is why we pleaded with Democrats to go with Bernie.  This is why we ended up with Trump in the White House. 

The future has no promise as long as it is confined to two choices that answer to the same essential masters:  Republican or Democrat. 

DAY 61:  FOOL ON THE HILL
March 21, 2017

Trump goes to congress to work his negotiating magic on Republicans still opposing the new healthcare replacement bill.  The trouble is:  If he panders to the Tea Party wing, he loses the moderates.  If he panders to the moderates, he loses the Tea Party. 

Meantime, Paul Manafort becomes the most likely to go to jail in the Trump-Russia scandal.  New information suggests that the former Trump campaign manager is guilty of laundering large amounts of Russian money while operating in Ukraine.  Manafort’s name was listed in black book of illicit funds as the beneficiary of $750,000.  [4]

Best-case scenario: this guy is a crook and a Kremlin agent.  It begs the question:  How does a man like Manafort become Trump’s campaign manager? 

DAY 62:  THE NUNES CARD
March 22, 2017

Representative Devin Nunes of California, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, provides cover to the president by suggesting to the White House and the press that Trump and his team were under surveillance between the election and the inauguration.  Nunes emphasizes that the reports involved legal “incidental surveillance” and have nothing to do with Russia. 

The only thing this demonstrates is that Nunes is a White House stooge who will obstruct any investigation that leads to the Oval Office. 

Representative Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the committee, calls for an independent commission and states flatly:  “There is more than circumstantial evidence” of the Trump team’s collusion with the Russians. [5]

There had better be, congressman.  The republic, the stability of the world and the future of the planet may depend on it. 

An apparent lone wolf terrorist attacks Parliament in London, killing at least four and wounding at least fifty before being killed. 

DAY 63:  SHOWDOWN IN THE HOUSE
March 23, 2017

The great negotiator fails in his first attempt to pass a replacement bill for Obamacare.  After promising a showdown this evening, congressional leadership pulled the bill before it could go down to defeat.  They are now promising a vote tomorrow morning. 

Somewhere in Ohio former Speaker of the House John Boehner is laughing his ass off.  The same Republican coalition that stripped him of power and sent him into early retirement has proven incapable of governing.  The same smug wonder boy who took his place is facing the same rude reality. 

In a sense, the hard liners are absolutely right:  Republicans have long proclaimed Obamacare a disaster that has only made things worse.  If that is the case, why not proceed with a straightforward repeal?  Why replace it at all – especially if you’re not willing to pay for it? 

The truth is the GOP has a losing hand and they don’t want to play it.  You don’t win elections by stripping people of health insurance. 

If Trump wants a winner, I’ve got a suggestion:  Medicare for all!  Let the Democrats carry the ball. 

Jazz. 

1.  “Tillerson, Trump and the South China Sea” by Amatai Etzioni.  The Diplomat, January 28, 2017. 

2.  “Trump’s Approval Rating Hits New Record Low” by Daniel Politi.  Slate, March 19, 2017. 

3.  “Does Donald Trump Now Hold a Significant Stake in Rosneft?” by Rashaverak.  Daily Kos, January 25, 2017. 

4.  “New payments show Trump aide laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges” by Andrew Roth.  Washington Post, March 21, 2017. 

5.  “Schiff: ‘There Is More Than Circumstantial Evidence Now’” by David A. Graham.  The Atlantic, March 22, 2017. 

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, NUMBER NINE, TALES FROM JAZZTOWN AND THE GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION. 


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Monday, March 20, 2017

TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK EIGHT 

Jazzman Chronicles: Disseminate freely.




SIDETRACKED
THE TRUMP DIARIES:  WEEK EIGHT
56 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


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 agent, 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 but Speaker of the House Paul Ryan seems to like the Republican proposal to replace Obama care.  The Trump White House looks like a pinball bouncing from bumper to bumper without direction. 

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 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 releases 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 testifies 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. 

Jazz.


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 THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, VOLUMES I-X, THE GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION, THE PATRIOT DIRGE, NUMBER NINE AND WASICHU: THE KILLING SPIRIT. 


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Trump Diaries Week Seven: 49 Days of Trump 






BEAR TRAP
THE TRUMP DIARIES:  WEEK SEVEN
49 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


Through six weeks of the Trump presidency the dominant issue, the ghost that haunts this White House like the first wife of an aging billionaire, the storm that never clears, is that of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence machine. 

We are receiving updates on the many communications of the Trump administration-slash-campaign and Russian agents on a daily basis.  The early Times report of constant contact was spot on.  What we do not know is what was said in those communications.  We do know that a transcript exists of the communication that got former National Security Adviser and registered foreign agent Michael Flynn fired.  We do not know what Trump knows and when he knew it.  It stretches credulity however to believe that he did not know that son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Trump Tower. 

This is the seventh installment of the Trump Diaries. 

DAY 43:  THE BEAR TRAP
March 3, 2017

Politico publishes a timeline of the relationship between the Russians and Team Trump before and after the election – see timeline below. [1] 

As more information emerges, we should understand that in today’s Russia there is no distinction between the government, the intelligence service and the business community.  They all answer to the strong man at the top. 

Trump people with the deepest ties to Russia include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and former adviser Carter Page.  As the Exxon CEO Tillerson negotiated a multi-billion dollar deal for drilling rights in the Arctic – a deal that was put on hold by Obama sanctions.  Manafort is a consultant noted for his representation of dictators, including Russia’s puppet in Ukraine.  Ross is a billionaire banker implicated in laundering Russian money at the Bank of Cyprus.  Page lived in Moscow for three years and once partnered with Russian oil executive Sergei Yatsenko.

Members of the Trump team who are known to have had contacts with Russian agents during the campaign or after the election include:  Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Carter Page, campaign advisor J.D. Gordon, Manafort, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

What is clear at this juncture is that at least one person knows exactly what took place in the meetings between Russian agents and Trump surrogates and that person is Vladimir Putin.  If Trump takes an aggressive stand in an attempt to prove his innocence, Putin could take him down.  If Trump eases sanctions or takes other pro-Russia measures, the American people will know why.  It’s a bear trap and the president cannot break free. 

There are others who may have critical evidence.  We know that the Flynn-Kislyak conversation was recorded.  Were any other conversations recorded?  Then there’s the Christopher Steele dossier – a work that has forced the highly regarded former British intelligence officer into hiding.  The truth will out.  Whether it takes a day or a decade, it will out and it will not be kind to those who withheld the facts or participated in this treachery. 

DAY 44:  TRUMP ACCUSES OBAMA OF WIRETAPPING TRUMP TOWER
March 4, 2017

Trump goes on a tweet attack, accusing his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower.  We can only guess how the man’s mind works:  How else would the media know about Kislyak’s meeting with Kushner?  There is another possibility:  That the FBI received a FISA warrant to listen in on Trump’s communications.  A warranted surveillance would mean that a federal judge was convinced that there was probable cause of a crime being committed. [3] A third possibility is that the Russians did the tapping in which case Russia has the goods.  A fourth possibility is that the whole thing is the product of paranoid minds courtesy of Breitbart News. 

The White House is running scared.  The president resembles a tortured Macbeth, imagining daggers in the dead of night. 

Trump supporters stage rallies across the nation.  Their numbers are decidedly underwhelming. 

DAY 45:  WILDFIRE
March 5, 2017

Trump demands that congress investigate former President Obama’s abuse of power during the recent presidential election. 

A reportedly unhinged Trump raises the specters of McCarthyism and Nixon’s Watergate in a storm of tweets.  Trump’s reaction to the daily revelations regarding Russia can only fuel the fire which is now engulfing the nation’s capitol and spreading like a summer wildfire in all directions.  It seems he’s been reading from the Book of Rove – as in Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s mastermind.  Rove worked to perfection the art of deflecting blame.  The rules of Rove include:  Do not simply deny a story but proclaim the opposite to be true.  When accused of wrongdoing, accuse the accuser. 

When Rove worked his dark arts, however, he never used the president to deliver the message.  He always used expendable surrogates – like spokesman Sean Spicer or counselor Kellyanne Conway.  It is beneath the dignity of the office to accuse one’s predecessor of high crimes without compelling evidence.  That dog just might come back to bite. 

The FBI asks the Justice Department to refute Trump’s claim of wiretapping.  No response thus far from the recused Attorney General. 

North Korea fires four missiles into the Sea of Japan.  Coming on the heels of Kim Jong Nam’s assassination, it raises new questions regarding the mental stability of the North Korean dictator.  No response thus far from the White House. 

DAY 46:  MOSTLY MUSLIM BAN
March 6, 2017

Trump finally releases his new and improved Muslim travel ban.  This one exempts Iraq, visa and green card holders, and eliminates special treatment for Christians.  The revision is an attempt to overcome legal challenges but the intent remains clear.  It doesn’t matter that the Department of Homeland Security undermined the rationale for the ban. [4] The president wants a Muslim ban and this is the best he can do.  He can’t stand the idea that any court can overrule his divine authority. 

DAY 47:  TRUMP CARE UPSTAGED
March 7, 2017

The rollout of the Republican replacement for Obamacare is upstaged by the continuing uproar regarding the president’s accusations of wiretapping.  The draft bill provides huge tax breaks for the wealthy, implements an “age tax” that will harm older people and will most certainly result in millions losing medical insurance.  The American Association of Retired People (AARP) opposes the bill. [5] AARP is a powerful lobby composed of mostly old white people who consistently vote Republican.  Trump could not have become president without them. 

Think Progress reports that the president met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on April 27th of last year. [6] Despite Trump’s repeated claims to the contrary the meeting was noted at the time by the Wall Street Journal. 

The occasion was a foreign policy speech for an invitation-only gathering in which the presumptive Republican nominee called for better relations with Russia. 

Why these guys continue to think they can get away with denying the obvious truth despite all evidence to the contrary is beyond credulity.  It is becoming apparent that everyone who is or was anyone on the Trump team met with the Russian ambassador – including the president. 

DAY 48:  WIKILEAKS CIA DUMP
March 8, 2017

WikiLeaks releases thousands of classified CIA documents, revealing extensive surveillance capabilities.  Bottom line:  If you’re connected to the world via phone, computer or television, the CIA can spy on you.  If you’re an influential person on the international scene, you are being monitored.  Watch your step. 

While it is fascinating to learn that the nation’s leading spy agency can observe you through your Samsung TV, this is not new ground.  If the agency tapped Trump Tower and pinned the blame on Obama, that would be compelling.  If Julian Assange makes a fortune shorting stock in Samsung, that too would be interesting. 

Christopher Steele, author of the Dirty Dossier (think Yellow Rain), emerges from hiding in London as elements of his report are confirmed by independent news sources.  Perhaps the most significant is an allegation of a quid pro quo regarding Russian sponsored WikiLeaks dumps in exchange for candidate Trump not raising intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. [7]

Former ambassador, governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman accepts the position of ambassador to Russia.  My advice:  Watch your back. 

As demonstrators take to the streets for International Women’s Day, Trump takes to the tweet to remind us that he respects women big league.  “Believe me.” 

DAY 49:  PREPARING FOR FAILURE
March 9, 2017

In an Oval Office meeting with rightwing groups – Tea Party Patriots, Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works – Trump reveals his contingency plan on healthcare reform:  Blame the Democrats. 

We can blame the Democrats for a lot of things, including allowing Trump to become president, but we can hardly blame them for a failed attempt at healthcare reform when the Republicans hold clear majorities in both houses of congress.  Take care of your own house, Mr. President, or face the consequences.  All the trump cards are in your hand yet you have all the signs of a losing player.  You’re running scared and looking for escape routes.  Stand up and take responsibility. 

Julian Assange implies from his refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London that the CIA inadvertently released its bag of hacking tools to bad actors on the open market.  He pledges to assist tech companies in defending their systems and devices from hacks. [8]

The mystery of Julian Assange grows.  The Russians used him as a conduit in its campaign to elect Donald Trump and now his CIA dump seems timed to distract us from the central story of this administration:  Team Trump and the Russians.  I’d like to hear less of Assange and more of Christopher Steele. 


It is ironic that Donald Trump has chosen Mar-a-Lago as his home away from the White House.  More and more he resembles the mad king alone in his tower, surrounded by sycophants and servants, afraid to inform him that he has no clothes.  His circle of trusted advisors shrinks by the day – some stripped of access and others banned by their misdeeds.  His presidency has only begun but he looks like Nixon in the final hours, clutching Kissinger’s hand and praying to a god he never believed in. 

The ghosts of his sordid past surround him and the walls to begin to close.  He tries to escape by running to Mar-a-Lago but the nightmares return and the ghosts will not let him sleep in peace. 

“Is this a dagger which I see before me?” [9]

Trump entered the White House on an irrational high, a sense of invincibility surrounding him.  No one could stop him.  No on could tell him he was wrong.  Now, only seven weeks into his reign, he curses the day he decided to run for the nation’s highest office.  Now reality begins to seep in:  This cannot end well. 

Jazz. 


TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: 

AUGUST 2011:  Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson signs major deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft to drill in the Arctic Sea.  In 2013 Putin awards Tillerson an Order of Friendship. 
NOVEMBER 9, 2013:  Trump holds Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. 
SEPTEMBER 2015:  FBI reveals Russians hacked the DNC. 
NOVEMBER 10:  Trump claims to know Vladimir Putin “very well” at the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee. 
DECEMBER 10:  General Michael Flynn attends Russia Today’s tenth anniversary dinner in Moscow, seated two chairs down from Putin. 
DECEMBER 17:  Putin praises Trump at a news conference.  Trump returns the favor. 
MARCH 19, 2016:  Russians hack Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s email account. 
MARCH 21:  Trump names Carter Page as one of his foreign policy advisors. 
MARCH 28:  Trump hires Paul Manafort, a former advisor to Russian puppet and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.  In April, Manafort is promoted to campaign manager. 
APRIL 27:  Trump calls for better relations with Russia.  Seated in the front row at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. is Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  Trump meets with Kislyak and three other ambassadors before his address. 
JUNE 15:  Documents stolen from the DNC are posted online. 
JULY 7:  Carter Page delivers harsh criticism of US and European policies in Moscow. 
JULY 18-23:  Three Trump advisers, including Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, meet with Ambassador Kislyak in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention. 
JULY 18:  The RNC adopts a platform with an amended policy that does not call for providing arms to independent Ukraine. 
JULY 20:  Then Senator Jeff Sessions meets with a group of ambassadors including Kislyak at the Republican convention. 
JULY 22:  WikiLeaks posts emails stolen from the DNC, forcing DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign two days later. 
JULY 26:  Intelligence officials report with “high confidence” that Russia is behind the DNC hack. 
JULY 27:  Trump calls on Russia to expose Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. 
JULY 31:  Trump defends Russia’s annexation of Crimea. 
AUGUST 14:  A New York Times report suggests Manafort is receiving large sums of money from Russian agents. 
AUGUST 17:  Trump names Kellyanne Conway campaign manager and Steve Bannon chief executive of his campaign. 
AUGUST 19:  Manafort resigns. 
SEPTEMBER 8:  Sessions meets with Kislyak in his office at the US Senate. 
SEPTEMBER 26:  Carter Page withdraws from the Trump campaign as Trump continues to doubt that Russia was behind the DNC hack:  “It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”  
OCTOBER 4:  Founder Julian Assange announces that WikiLeaks will release new information every week for the next ten weeks.  Three days later, hours after the infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” video becomes public, they make their first info dump. 

Hoping to curry favor from the next president, it appears Assange joined Team Trump. 

OCTOBER 9:  At the second presidential debate Trump asserts:  “I know nothing about Russia… I don’t deal there.  I have no businesses there.  I have no loans from Russia.” 

Release your taxes, Donald, and we’ll judge for ourselves. 

OCTOBER 31:  The FBI reports it has found “no clear link” to Russia in the hacking scandal. 

Director Comey strikes a new blow for Team Trump and in the process destroys whatever was left of his credibility. 

NOVEMBER 8:  Trump elected.  The Russian Parliament celebrates. 
DECEMBER: Jared Kushner and General Flynn meet with Kislyak in Trump Tower. 
DECEMBER 8:  Carter Page is spotted in Moscow. 
DECEMBER 15:  Putin writes Trump to suggest a new era in Russian-American relations. 
DECEMBER 26:  Former KGB agent Oleg Erovinkin, suspected of aiding Christopher Steele with the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, is found dead in Moscow. 
DECEMBER 29:  President Obama orders the expulsion of 35 Russian operatives, closes two spy stations and imposes sanctions on Russian intelligence services.  Soon to be National Security Advisor Michael Flynn engages in a series of phone calls with the Russian ambassador. 
DECEMBER 30:  Putin announces he will not retaliate. 
JANUARY 6, 2017:  The US intelligence community releases its conclusion that Russia interfered in the election with the purpose of denigrating Hillary Clinton and, if possible, electing Donald Trump.  Trump calls the whole Russian business “a political witch hunt.” 
JANUARY 10:  Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee:  “I did not have communications with the Russians.” 
JANUARY 10:  BuzzFeed releases the Trump-Russia dossier compiled by former British intelligence analyst Christopher Steele.  The implication is that Trump’s people colluded with Russian intelligence and that Russian possessed compromising information with which the new president could be influenced.  Trump is incensed and goes on a twitter rant:  I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NOTHING! 

Release your financial records, Donald, including your tax returns, and let us decide whether you represent America or a hostile foreign power. 

JANUARY 13:  Trump tells the Wall Street Journal he is open to lifting sanctions on Russia. 

Of course you are, Donald.  Who wouldn’t be open to lifting sanctions after repeated briefings that Russia deliberately interfered in our election with the intent of altering the outcome? 

JANUARY 17-20:  Outgoing President Obama takes extraordinary measures to assure that intelligence documenting the Trump-Russia connection is not purged by his successor. [2]
JANUARY 26:  Acting Attorney General Sally Yates briefs White House Counsel Don McGahn on Flynn’s recorded conversation with Kislyak. 
FEBRUARY 8:  Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General. 
FEBRUARY 9:  The Washington Post reveals that Flynn did talk sanctions with Kislyak. 
FEBRUARY 13:  Flynn resigns. 
FEBRUARY 14:  The New York Times reports that Team Trump had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence agents in 2016. 
FEBRUARY 16:  Trump calls the story “fake news” and coins a phrase:  The Russian Ruse. 
MARCH 1:  The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Sessions met with Kislyak on two occasions during the campaign. 
MARCH 2:  Sessions recuses himself from any investigation involving the campaign. 

Not good enough, Sessions.  First, if recusal were sufficient, you would need to recuse yourself from all Russia-Trump investigations during the campaign and the presidency.  Second, you need to resign immediately in lieu of prosecution for perjury. 

NOTES: 

1. “The definitive Trump-Russia timeline of events” by Matthew Nussbaum.  Politico, March 3, 2017. 

2.  “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking” by Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt.  New York Times, March 1, 2017. 

3.  “Trump’s Wiretapping Claim Based on Warrants Granted to FBI” by David Z. Morris.  Fortune Magazine, March 4, 2017. 

4.  “DHS report casts doubt on need for travel ban” by Matt Zapotosky.  Washington Post, February 24, 2017. 

5.  “AARP hates Trumpcare – good thing GOP doesn’t need old people or anything” by Drew Salisbury.  March 8, 2017. 

6.  “Trump personally met with Russian ambassador during campaign” by Judd Legum.  Think Progress, March 7, 2017. 

7.  “The Steele Dossier Is Increasingly Being Corroborated” by Nancy LeTourneau.  Washington Monthly, March 8, 2017. 

8.  “Assange:  CIA letting files leak a ‘historic act of devastating incompetence” by Joe Uchill.  The Hill, March 9, 2017. 

9.  Macbeth, Act II, Scene 1.  William Shakespeare. 

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION, THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, A PATRIOT DIRGE AND OTHER WORKS PUBLISHED BY CROW DOG PRESS. 

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Monday, March 06, 2017

THE TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK SIX 

 



STONE COLD PERJURY
THE TRUMP DIARIES:  WEEK SIX
42 Days of Trump

By Jack Random


Entering the sixth week of the Trump presidency it has become clear that we are engaged in a battle to define reality.  It has become clear that the White House has chosen mainstream media as its foil and bogeyman.  If things don’t go as planned, blame the media.  If his indecipherable foreign policy explodes, blame the media.  If his legislative agenda fails to deliver, blame the media. 

Apparently, the Democratic Party does not offer enough resistance to play its traditional role as the party of opposition. 

This is the sixth installment of the Trump Diaries. 

DAY 36:  WHITE HOUSE OBSTRUCTION
February 24, 2017

The Associated Press obtains a Department of Homeland Security draft report that does not support the president’s Muslim travel ban. [1] The finding is not what the White House ordered and is sure to raise the ire of the man at the top. 

The Washington Post reports that Chief of Staff Reince Preibus contacted the FBI, other intelligence personnel, reporters and members of congress to orchestrate denials of Trump connections to Russia.  The contacts included Senator Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Representative Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  Both complied with the White House request yet deny that their ongoing investigations would be compromised. 

Something is rotten in Trumpland. 

Representative Darrell Issa of California becomes the first Republican to call for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia connection. 

DAY 37:  TRUMP CUTS NATIONAL DEBT
February 25, 2017

The president claims to have miraculously cut the national debt by twelve billion dollars in his first month in office.  He is incensed that mainstream media has not reported the miracle.  In Barrack Obama’s first month the debt increased by approximately $200 billion.  Of course, Obama took office with the global economy tottering on the brink of collapse.  The current debt figure is basically unrelated to Trump since he has not yet passed a budget. [2]

There can be no doubt that Wall Street loves Trump as Trump loves Wall Street but the national debt has not yet weighed in. 

DAY 38:  RIGGED SYSTEM
February 26, 2017

The president engages in an early morning rant against the Democratic National Committee for electing former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez as chair.  He labels the process “rigged” and claims Representative Keith Ellison never had a chance. 

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders endorsed Ellison while Perez enjoyed the backing of the Clinton-Obama establishment.  Adding fuel to Trump’s fire, Sanders suggested he might not be willing to give his email list of supporters to the DNC. 

Why should he?  This high-profile selection of a DNC chair demonstrates that the middling, do-nothing, free trade, neoliberal Wall Street loyalists of the party establishment have learned nothing from a devastating loss in the presidential election.  This party paved the road for a Trump presidency by neglecting the working class, promoting free trade and collecting unconscionable Wall Street contributions while pretending to represent the common people. 

Soon enough, the stalwarts of the Republican Party will cut ties with the Donald and the Democrats will revert to identity politics.  If ever there was a time for a third party challenge, the time is now. 

Hold on to that mailing list, Bernie, and send a message to the DNC:  Can you hear us now? 

DAY 39:  THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP
February 27, 2017

The Donald announces his intention to increase military spending by $54 billion and offset the increase with cuts to non-military spending.  The cuts will not include border patrol, ICE or law enforcement.  It will include foreign aid, environmental protection and other “unnecessary” expenditures. 

Add the estimated $20 billion to build the wall and we can say goodbye to rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.  Why build a bridge when we can build a bomb to knock it down?  Gone is any hope that Trump’s version of national health care provides universal coverage at an affordable price.  We all knew that was bullshit anyway. 

The president renews his promise to spend big on infrastructure and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assures us that Social Security and Medicare are still off the table.  That might give us comfort but the numbers don’t add up. 

The first rule of the con:  Never ever believe anyone who says, “Believe me.”

“Mexico will pay for the wall, believe me – 100%.”  NY Times, January 6, 2017.

“We’re going to knock the hell out of ISIS.  Believe me.”  CNN, April 6, 2016. 

“I have great respect for women.  Believe me.”  LA Times, May 27, 2016.

“I’m the only who is going to save Social Security.  Believe me.”  National Review, February 13, 2016. 

“Believe me, we’re going to protect our Medicare.”  Trump Rally, October 11, 2016. 

No, Donald, we do not believe you.  We never have believed you.  Even your followers know better than to believe you.  You’re a con man.  But the key to any successful con is to make a clean escape.  You can’t escape this time, Donald.  There’s nowhere to hide. 

DAY 40:  THE EARTH SHIFTED
February 28, 2017

President Donald Trump makes his first address to a joint session of congress.  Like Jack Nicholson reading Walt Whitman, where the words don’t match the speaker, Trump delivers a striking contrast to the daily Donald.  Gone are the vilifications of real and imagined enemies at home and abroad.  Gone is the dark vision of American carnage.  A new and gentler Trump issues a call for unity in “condemning hate and evil in all its forms.” 

We can all agree with the president’s declaration that 2016 was the year “the earth shifted beneath our feet.”  Where we disagree is on the results of that quake. 

“It’s a total disaster.” [3]

Trump raises hope for comprehensive immigration reform and a trillion dollar infrastructure bill that would rely on public and private funding.  Both initiatives would have to overcome stiff resistance from his own party.  There is a limit to private funding that would place tolls on roads and bridges and congress approved only $787 billion when confronted with economic crisis of 2009. [4] Trying to get a trillion dollars from a Republican controlled congress is like asking Steve Bannon for a contribution to Public Broadcasting.  It ain’t happening. 

Trump spells out five criteria for healthcare reform:  First, Americans with pre-existing conditions must have “access” to insurance.  The word “access” is a crack in the dam that brings the whole system crashing down.  Second, provide tax credits and health savings accounts in lieu of direct assistance.  Twenty million people just slipped through the crack.  Third, provide states with resources and flexibility.  Flexibility is the key to cutting Medicaid.  Fourth, limit malpractice damages to bring down the cost.  Republicans hate trial lawyers.  Cost savings would be negligible.  Fifth, enable people to purchase insurance across state lines.  It sounds good but it turns out insurance companies are not interested in selling across state lines.  Insurance coverage is regulated by the states even under Obamacare. [4]

“Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.”  Trump, February 27, 2017. 

No, Donald.  Nobody knew – except everyone who has followed the news for the past three decades.  Sad. 

Trump embraces free choice to save education.  The right to choose private for profit and religious schools, unburdened by federal mandates, special education and teacher’s unions, is the Republican prescription for eviscerating public education. 

We can hardly wait for the next generation of scientists raised on biblical prophecy, alternative facts and the relative value of Moses versus Einstein. 

Trump calls for unity in support of our brave men and women in blue.  He has ordered Homeland Security to create a new office to support victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces his department will no longer question police killings of citizens regardless of race, creed or conscience. [5]

Trump continues to believe we are in the midst of a historic crime wave despite all evidence to the contrary.  He is determined to be a law and order president – like Nixon. 

The most disturbing theme underlying the president’s address is his overwhelming desire for greatness. 

“When we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began.  The time for small thinking is over.  The time for trivial fights is behind us.” 

This comes from a man who has spent the last two years in trivial pursuit of the White House.  We can only hope he devotes his time to knocking down windmills, the monsters in his mind, and leaves the rest to individuals of substance.  When presidents start thinking big, the most probable result is war. 

DAY 41:  THE DOW SOARS
March 1, 2017

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soars to close above 21,000 for the first time as Trump basks in the glory of positive reviews for his presidential address to congress. 

One day after a moving tribute to fallen Navy Seal Ryan Owens, controversy continues over whether the Yemen raid was “highly successful” as the president claims.  While no one doubts the courage of Ryan Owens, a great many doubt the efficacy and “success” of a mission that resulted in dozens of civilian deaths, the destruction of a $70 million helicopter and three wounded American soldiers in addition to Owens’ death. [6]

The president’s statements on the Raid in Yemen have been attempts to deflect blame and responsibility.  He has suggested his predecessor approved the mission when in fact he did not.  He has said that the generals made the decision when in fact the call was his and would not have proceeded without his approval. 

If the president had hoped to put the Raid in Yemen behind him, his response all but guarantees an investigation will ensue. 

The shadow of Benghazi lives. 

DAY 42:  STONE COLD PERJURY
March 2, 2017

This story broke late Wednesday night; on Thursday shit hit the fan: 

The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on at least two occasions during the recent presidential campaign.  The revelation stands in stark contrast to Sessions’ testimony in his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. [7]

Despite the twisted, mealy-mouthed rationalizations of the Justice Department, the stone cold truth is:  Sessions flat out lied. 

The story holds that Sessions met with Kislyak in July and September – a fact not disputed by the Attorney General.  On January 10, in response to questioning by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, Sessions stated:  “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in [the Trump] campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” 

You cannot repair shattered glass.  Recusal from the ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia is not enough.  Resignation is not enough.  The nation’s lead law enforcement officer should be prosecuted for perjury. 

As then Senator Sessions said in January 1999:  “In America…no one is above the law.” 

The matter then was Bill Clinton’s sexual relations with Monica Lewinski.  The matter now is collusion with a foreign agent to defraud an American election. 

Jazz.

1.  “AP Exclusive:  DHS report disputes threat from banned nations” by Vivian Salama and Alicia A. Caldwell.  Associated Press, February 24, 2017. 

2.  “Trump lashes out at media for failing to report debt decrease” by Michael Collins.  USA Today, February 25, 2017. 

3.  “Trump says EVERYTHING is broken, awful, a disaster” by Gregory Krieg.  CNN Politics, October 15, 2016. 

4.  “Trump’s Address to Joint Session of Congress, Annotated.”  NPR: Capitol Public Radio, February 28, 2017. 

5.  “AG Sessions Says DOJ to ‘Pull Back’ on Department Civil Rights Suits” by Pete Williams.  NBC, February 28, 2017. 

6.  “What Donald Trump left out about the Yemen raid that killed Navy SEAL Ryan Owens” by Lauren Carroll.  PolitiFact, March 1, 2017. 

7.  “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose” by Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller.  Washington Post, March 1, 2017. 

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES – VOLUMES I-X, WASICHU: THE KILLING SPIRIT, THE GRAND CANYON ZEN GOLF TOUR AND RANDOM JACK: TALES FROM JAZZTOWN (CROW DOG PRESS).


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