Liveblogging the Trump presidency, one catastrophe at a time.
Monday was a pretty busy day for me, and Tuesday’s shaping up to be the same. And not just busy, but also long, as I have a thing tonight, so this may not get updated again until later this evening. We’ll start out with some catch-up from the weekend and Monday, and then get on with today’s news.
SATURDAY: Trump had a little Twitter hissy, calling out NBC News for covering the “fake news” Russia story instead of the “real” story about how Trump was supposedly surveilled by Obama during the election (this is BS, Obama did not surveil Trump prior to the election, and there is thus far no proof of anything like that happening). People were still abuzz about the financial disclosures of top Trump White House staff released on the White House website. People are also getting persnickety about Jared Kushner’s status in the White House, claiming he has irons in too many fires and he isn’t keeping up with all of them. (WTFJHT)
SUNDAY: A judge ruled that Trump may have been inciting violence during a rally in Kentucky last spring. Meanwhile, Michael Flynn neglected to mention to federal ethics officials more payments from Russian propaganda outlets, and the Chinese ambassador has established a back channel of communication with Jared Kushner, which sounds nefarious but really just means they like him better than Trump. Also, the FBI is looking into whether or not Trump aides actually helped Russian hackers carry out cyber attacks against the DNC. (WTFJHT)
MONDAY: Democrats got their 41 votes, so they’re gonna filibuster Gorsuch. On the sly, Trump rearranged that laughable “trust” he set up back when he took office so that he can take profits out of it whenever he wants. The trust was barely worth anything to start with in terms of stopping conflicts of interest, but now it’s completely worthless. A former national security adviser to Obama, Susan Rice, was requesting the names of individuals whose identities were obscured in intelligence. This was a legal and probably also appropriate use of her powers at the time. Erik Prince, Blackwater founder and Betsy DeVos’ brother, established a back channel of communication between the Trump team and Moscow nine days before Trump was inaugurated. Trump is now a big fan of Egypt’s tyrant of a leader and Kushner went to Iraq for a first-hand look at the situation there regarding ISIS. (WTFJHT)
NEWS: “The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.” (Washington Post) This happened Monday, but it’s a big one, so I’m setting it out separately, too.
- OPINION: “What to make of the latest revelation – that Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a major funder to the Trump campaign, buddy of Stephen Bannon, and brother of Education Secretary and Trump donor Betsy DeVos met secretly in the Seychelles Island with a Russian representative apparently to arrange a backchannel between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin? It would be a mistake to file it immediately under Trumputingate. It’s more interesting than that.” (TPM EdBlog)
NEWS: “President Trump has relaxed some of the rules for preventing civilian casualties when the American military carries out counterterrorism strikes in Somalia, laying the groundwork for an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa.” (New York Times)
NEWS: Carter Page, former Trump advisor, was in contact with at least one Russian spy in 2013. He passed the spy some documents about an energy initiative he was affiliated with at the time. There’s video of Russian spies talking about using him and making fun of how dumb he is. (Buzzfeed News) This is a judgement call on my part, but I’m pretty sure Carter Page ain’t right in the head. His responses to things are weird.
- NEWS: Carter Page denies ever trying to become a Russian spy. “I didn’t want to be a spy. I’m not a spy,” he said on the news yesterday. (TPM)
NEWS: “The Trump administration said Monday it was cutting off U.S. funding to the United Nations agency for reproductive health, accusing the agency of supporting population control programs in China that include coercive abortion.” (AP)
NEWS: AG Jeff Sessions announced yesterday evening that the DoJ will be reviewing civil rights agreements with police departments. The agreements he’s referring to are the ones made under the Obama administration after the Ferguson protest and so forth, that were meant to safeguard civilians against police abuse and brutality. The Trump administration is taking a hard line in supporting police departments and de-emphasizing protecting civilians from abuse. (NPR)
NEWS: And you thought Republicare was sorted, didn’t you? VP Pence met with moderate and conservative Republicans on Monday to get the band back together for another go at the old Obamacare-repeal-and-replace gig. (Reuters, Washington Post)
- NEWS: “House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Tuesday that House Republicans were working on reaching a consensus on a bill to replace Obamacare. But he emphasized that it was in its “conceptual stage.'” (TPM)
- NEWS: The new healthcare bill the GOP is tip-toeing around would let states choose to ditch the essential health benefits and community ratings. Technically they’re not doing away with the pre-existing conditions protections that way, but the practical effect would probably make it grossly expensive for someone with a pre-existing condition to get a health insurance plan. (TPM)
- NEWS: So the odds of this new Republicare push getting anywhere aren’t looking great. Republicans still can’t get together on what should and shouldn’t be in the bill. (Politico)
OVERVIEW: The Washington Post has a rundown of what’s happened with the Trump administration in the last 74 days. Read it here.
NEWS: Forward has video of Sebastian “Fight Me IRL, Racist Hungarian Medals” Gorka, White House senior aide, affirming his support for “the black-vested Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) — a group later condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for attempting to promote an ‘essentially racist’ legal order.” (Forward)
- NEWS: “A mysterious Wikipedia user with the pseudonym ‘Sk-Gorka’ has made edits to the site’s pages about White House aide Sebastian Gorka and his wife, Katharine Gorka.” (TPM)
FACT CHECK: The Washington Post’s Fact Checker feature goes over Trump’s BS wiretapping claims, the Susan Rice thing, and all the attendant garbage, and sorts truth from fiction. Read it here.
- NEWS: Senator Lindsey Graham thinks that Susan Rice, the former Obama national security advisor who asked for names in intelligence reports to be “unmasked,” probably did so for political purposes, which so far doesn’t seem to be the actual case. (Politico)
- ANALYSIS: The Washington Post goes over the Susan Rice situation in more detail and points out that her actions are not a “smoking gun,” but that she does have some explaining to do. Read it here.
- NEWS: Susan Rice says, “The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false.” (Politico, TPM) Most of what I’m reading and hearing inclines me to think that Susan Rice acted appropriately and within the law, and that the Trump team is seizing on her as a scapegoat.
- NEWS: “According to surveillance and national security experts, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice would be within her rights to make such requests if she was trying to determine the extent of Russia’s interference in the presidential election.” (TPM)
- EXPLAINER: Vox goes over the Rice controversy point by point. Read it here.
Susan Rice does a good job explaining why the Susan Rice story is B.S. pic.twitter.com/AgKuxQNM75
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) April 4, 2017
ANALYSIS: You’ve heard a lot about Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Democratic filibuster of his nomination, and the Republicans’ promise to kill the filibuster as an option if that happens. You’re probably tired of hearing about it, and you probably think this is just how business gets done. That is not so. What’s happening with the Gorsuch nomination is part of recent trend towards Dems and Repubs being completely unable to work together in the Senate. (FiveThirtyEight)
- NEWS: “The U.S. Senate fight over President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, begins moving on Tuesday to its decisive phase as Democrats seek to block a final vote and Republicans vow to ensure the conservative judge’s confirmation.” (Reuters)
- EXPLAINER: NPR goes over how we got to where we are and why we might be about to lose the filibuster against SCotUS judges. Read it here.
ANALYSIS: Trump weakened the EPA, but this isn’t the first time a president has gone after the EPA. The results of doing so in the past usually meant progress was slowed, not stopped or sent backwards, though. (FiveThirtyEight)
NEWS: Trump, via Sean Spicer, made a big show of donating the first quarter’s worth of his presidential salary to the National Park Service. (NPR)
QUOTE: “In a way [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] would be pleased to have seen the first African-American elected president, to have seen many doors opened for people like me and others who now have opportunities that would not have had them back then. But at the same time, when we see a guy like Bannon, who is, as far as I’m concerned, a white supremacist-type person, sitting in the White House — sitting in the White House — and I’m paying his salary, I think he would be very disappointed.” – Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D-MD) (Politico)
NEWS: Senator John McCain is not happy with how we’re handling Syria. He’s called it “another disgraceful chapter in American history.” (Politico)
NEWS: “Although worried about the prospect of a trade war, American businesses operating in China nonetheless want President Donald Trump to wring some concessions on market access from China’s leader Xi Jingping when the two meet this week.” (Reuters)
NEWS: “The U.S. trade deficit fell more than expected in February as exports increased to a two-year high and slowing domestic demand weighed on imports.” (Reuters)
NEWS: “The Massachusetts city of Cambridge has passed a resolution calling for an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump. […] The resolution calls on the U.S. House of Representatives to review whether Trump’s many business interests violate the foreign emoluments clause or the domestic emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.” (AP) This is meaningless in terms of getting anything done. Cambridge is just making their opinion official, basically.
NEWS: “President Trump unveiled an enormous chart that illustrated an apparently fictional process for getting approval to build a highway during a town hall event with business leaders on April 4 at the White House.” (Washington Post Video)
NEWS: Trump talked to 52 business leaders from New York City today and told them he “plans to cut red tape and jumpstart infrastructure projects” and said that his priorities include “shortening flight times for airplanes, increasing the power grid’s efficiency and targeting programs to improve job training.” He said he was going to cut 90% of regulations “and still have safety,” but he didn’t say how. He also said he was only backing infrastructure projects that could start right away. (AP)
POLL: “A majority of people ages 18 to 30 think the federal government should be responsible for making sure Americans have health insurance. […] 63% of young Americans approve of the Obama-era health care law.” 75% approve of the Obamacare provision that lets people stay on their parent’s insurance until 26. “63% want the government to increase spending to help people afford insurance.” (AP) There are lots more interesting numbers at the link.
FACT CHECK: Trump described Obama’s stimulus package as “as a windfall for social programs and said he’s unaware of anything built from the money steered to infrastructure.” That’s not a fair characterization of the stimulus. It had “tax cuts as its largest component and plowed more than $100 billion into highway, transit and other ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects.” (AP)
NEWS: Despite the fact that we’re currently eyeball deep in phone tax scams, the IRS is restarting their private phone banking program. Not actually their fault, though. They quit using private phone banking in 2009, but a 2015 law is making them start it up again. (AP)
STUDY: “About seven in 10 Americans think tensions between the Trump administration and the news media are negatively affecting their access to political news, according to a Pew Research Study released Tuesday.” (Politico)
NEWS: “Jay Clayton, the Wall Street lawyer tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, passed a key hurdle as the Senate Banking Committee voted to advance his nomination to the full chamber.” (Politico)
NEWS: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Tuesday that he would not eliminate the 60-vote threshold needed to end filibusters on most legislation under his leadership — even as he is preparing to invoke the controversial ‘nuclear option’ to do just that for Supreme Court nominees later this week.” (Politico)
POLL: “A majority of Americans approve of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s health care law, for the first time since the polling firm Gallup began asking the question in November 2012.” (Politico)
NEWS: “The White House is exploring a value-added tax and a carbon tax as part of a planned tax code overhaul, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing an unidentified administration official and a person briefed on the matter.” (Reuters)
NEWS: “An apparent chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held area of Syria claims the lives of dozens of civilians, including children. The White House blames the Syrian government.” (NPR Audio)
- NEWS: Trump blamed Obama for the gas attack, saying in a White House statement, “Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world. These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons, and then did nothing.” (TPM, Washington Post)
NEWS: “Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, on Tuesday said that the White House helped ‘selectively and surreptitiously’ provide intelligence reports to committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA).” (TPM)
Looking for old Trumpster Fires? Look here.