[President Trump tweets wild lie that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is to blame for Manhattan terror attack; but Donald really hurts feelings by saying “Democrat” instead of “Democratic”]

— RECENT HEADLINES —
“Conservative News Outlet Wash. Free Beacon Initially Funded Fusion GPS Trump Dossier” (10/27/2017)
“Veselnitskaya, Russian Who Met With Manafort, Kushner, and Don Jr., Tied to Putin Despite Denials” (10/27/2017)
“Trump Admin. Touts Phony Clinton Distractions Knowing Mueller Indictments Imminent” (10/28/2017)
“Puerto Rico Cancels Controversial Whitefish Energy Contract to Repair Its Power Grid” (10/29/2017)
“Mueller Indicts Manafort and Protégé, Unseals Plea Deal With Trump Adviser George Papadopoulos” (10/30/2017)
“U.S. Court Reverses President’s Transgender Troop Ban He Announced by Tweet” (10/30/2017)
“Chief of Staff General John Kelly Says ‘Lack of Compromise’ Caused Civil War” (10/31/2017)
“President’s Appeals Court Nominee Declared ‘Not Qualified’ by ABA Committee” (10/31/2017)
“Trump Campaign Co-Chair Sam Clovis Reportedly Cooperating With Mueller Team” (10/31/2017)
“Sam Clovis’ Agriculture Nomination Suffers Russia Setback; and, He’s Unqualified” (10/31/2017)
“Apparent ISIS Lone Wolf Terrorist Attack Kills 8 on Lower Manhattan Bike Path” (10/31/2017)
“Trump Politicizes Terror Attack, Blames Schumer for Visa Program Chuck Tried to Kill” (11/1/2017)

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I haven’t commented a lot on the Trump-Russia investigation. The president’s sheer incompetence, mendacity, and ethical paucity have overshadowed the nebulous nature of the collusion probe.

Until now.



Bob Mueller Is a Republican, Appointed by Republicans

Before this week, little was known about what special counsel Robert Mueller might turn up in the investigation of possible Russian-American collusion to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This speaks to the integrity and discipline of his investigation. Despite some Republicans’ and conservative pundits’ phony accusations of bias, Mueller is running an airtight, nonpartisan campaign to get to the truth about the Russia question.

Moreover, Bob Mueller is a Republican, appointed by a Republican president (George W. Bush) to be acting deputy attorney general, then director of the FBI where he served for 12 years. Last May, Trump’s own deputy attorney general — a Republican — appointed Mueller to head the special counsel Russia investigation.

Mr. Mueller dropped the first indictments Monday, only five months after his appointment. This was explosive because it confirmed there were significant indictments to drop. (Trump supporters predicted and hoped there would be none.) Most pundits and legal experts agree this is a strong indication that the investigation is moving promptly and thoroughly — like a finely tuned bulldozer uncovering a lot of fertile ground.

This week we learned former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort probably laundered tens of millions of dollars and made offshore bank transfers of close to $1 million — each — for fancy rugs, fancy clothes, and landscaping services. These were included in a long list of Paul’s other previously secret personal transactions. The secrecy was to avoid paying U.S. taxes on questionably earned income. We know many millions of dollars changed hands between Mr. Manafort and Russian oligarchs with close ties to President Putin.

We also learned Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos made many overtures to Russian contacts to pursue hacked Clinton campaign emails, and that Trump campaign superiors gave him attaboys for his “great work.” (He accepted a plea bargain related to perjury charges and has been cooperating with Mueller for several months.) We learned George knew about the trove of “thousands” of Clinton campaign Russian-hacked emails before the world knew about them. We know Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis encouraged Papadopoulos’ contacts with the Russians. And we know Sam is reportedly also cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

This was just Robert Mueller’s opening move.

Innocent, Though Proven Incompetent

Let’s assume Donald Trump himself is innocent of authorizing or knowing about any Russian collusion. (Just play along for a minute.) The headlines this week alone provide enough evidence supporting the president’s incompetence and ethical deficiencies to trigger the 25th Amendment: namely, he appoints shady, swampy people to work for him, he’s endangering U.S. national security, he can’t run an organization, and he cannot not tell a lie.

Several incarnations of the stupid or sleazy? theme in relation to the Trump administration’s decisions and actions have been circulating the late-night talk show monologues since Inauguration Day. It is an apt framing of many of those decisions and actions. It distills them to one of only two possible explanations, neither of which is a pretty picture. For our purposes, sleazy includes immoral, unethical, illegal, and inhumane.



“Puerto Rico Cancels Controversial Whitefish Energy Contract to Repair Its Power Grid” (10/29/2017)

Whitefish Energy was granted a no-bid $300 million contract to repair Puerto Rico’s electrical grid in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The two-year-old company had two employees on staff the day before the storm devastated the U.S. territory. Whitefish’s billed expenses run much higher than those of similar businesses. Whitefish Energy is located in Whitefish, Montana, which is also the hometown of Ryan Zinke, head of the U.S. Department of Interior. Zinke and the CEO know each other. Zinke’s wife and the CEO’s wife are friendly on Facebook. Zinke’s son had a summer job with the company. (Mufson, S. & Hernandez, A. & Davis, A.; “Puerto Rico Moves to Cancel Contract With Whitefish Energy to Repair Electric Grid”; The Washington Post; 10/29/2017.)

Whitefish Energy appears woefully unqualified for the job. FEMA is now looking at how this got by them. The contract was awarded without any other bids. The CEO and Trump’s interior secretary are from the same small Montana town, and the two families appear friendly. At the very least, there was poor decision-making and an appearance of artifice. Stupid or sleazy?

“U.S. Court Reverses President’s Transgender Troop Ban He Announced by Tweet” (10/30/2017)

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter posts; 7/26/2017.)

It was widely reported that the president, in fact, had no consultation with his generals or anyone else before he put out this tweet. Almost all military officials and civil rights attorneys panned the directive. Had they had a heads-up, his own legal and military teams would have researched the issue and told Mr. Trump it was not good for the military, inhumane, and probably illegal. Monday, a federal judge schooled Donald on the basics of judicial checks and balances. The judge did not say “thank you.”

President Trump likely made this impetuous communication to please his base. He knew if he consulted the experts, they would have nixed it. He might have known he couldn’t unilaterally order this, or he could have been testing the limits of his attempted authoritarianism rather than bother to consult Oval Office lawyers. Stupid or sleazy?

“Chief of Staff General John Kelly Says ‘Lack of Compromise’ Caused Civil War” (10/31/2017)

I wanted to like John Kelly when President Trump first appointed him chief of staff. As I said last week, “Kelly is the person placed in Trump’s daily orbit whose unquestioned integrity was supposed to offset the president’s galactic lack thereof.” Alas, his association with Trump apparently has made him damaged goods.

Kelly appeared on Laura Ingraham’s debut episode of her Fox News show this week. He called Robert E. Lee “an honorable man.” He said the Civil War was caused by “the lack of an ability to compromise.” He said, “Men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Mr. Kelly followed that gem by saying he had nothing to apologize for — and would “never” apologize — regarding last week’s slanderous defense of the president in which John (at best) misspoke or (at worst) lied about his characterization of Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), her statements at a 2015 FBI building dedication, and her “secretly” listening in on a Trump condolence call to a fallen soldier’s family. (See FallacyReporter.com, “Who Will Be the Edward Brooke of the Trump Era?”, 10/26/2017, for details.)

John Kelly lied or misspoke, was proved wrong, and refused to correct the record. After that, Kelly felt emboldened enough to sympathize with the Confederacy because the darn United States government would just not compromise enough on the South’s right to enslave and abuse human beings. Stupid or sleazy?

“Sam Clovis’ Agriculture Nomination Suffers Russia Setback; and, He’s Unqualified” (10/31/2017)

President Trump nominated his campaign co-chair Sam Clovis to be the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist aka undersecretary of agriculture for research, education, and economics. Now that Clovis is likely to be implicated in possible Russian collusion, this nomination is in grave doubt: first, because any scent of Russian contact would remind everyone of the scandal; and second, because as Lawrence O’Donnell explained this week, Trump will never allow Senate Agriculture Committee Democrats a confirmation hearing forum to question Clovis about his contacts with subordinate George Papadopoulos — the same George Papadopoulos who plea-bargained perjury charges and has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation for several months.

Oh, one more thing: Sam Clovis is not a scientist.

Stupid or sleazy?

“Apparent ISIS Lone Wolf Terrorist Attack Kills 8 on Lower Manhattan Bike Path” (10/31/2017)
“Trump Politicizes Terror Attack, Blames Schumer for Visa Program Chuck Tried to Kill” (11/1/2017)

President Trump could not wait even 24 hours — could not wait for all the victims to be identified — before attempting to turn the lower Manhattan terrorist attack that killed 8 bicyclists into sick, selfish, political advantage for himself.

“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based. … We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). … Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems’ said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness!”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter posts; 11/1/2017.)

While it is true that Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the visa program bill in 1990, that bill passed Congress with a bipartisan majority and was signed by President George H. W. Bush (R-Texas). At that time, most Republican (as well as most Democratic) legislators and the GOP administration thought it was a good idea.

But things change. In 2013 the so-called Gang of 8 (four Republican and four Democratic senators — including Schumer) saw the need to eliminate the Diversity Visa Program. They tried to end it through a comprehensive immigration reform plan.

“Actually, the Gang of 8, including Sen. Schumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms. I know, I was there … In fact, had the Senate Gang of 8 bill passed the [GOP-controlled] House, it would have ended the Visa Lottery Program AND increased merit based visas.”

(Flake, Jeff, R-Ariz., U.S. senator; Twitter posts; 11/1/2017.)

President Trump clearly knows what Sen. Flake knows. Trump knows this because his aides who researched the Schumer visa lottery connection would have also come across the same exculpatory information. Additionally, Donald claims to have been against this program all along. Why did he wait until now to propose getting rid of it?

The Donald waits weeks before mentioning the four Niger Special Forces deaths at the hands of terrorists Oct. 4, 2017, because it hurts his tough-on-ISIS image. The president took days to say only drivel about the 58 deaths and nearly 500 woundings and injuries in Las Vegas Oct. 1, 2017, at the hands of an American Caucasian terrorist. And he said nothing about any presidential intentions to prevent like incidents. In fact, his press secretary chastised others for bringing up gun control too soon after the shooting, saying, “There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country.”

Less than 24 hours after New York’s apparent ISIS-related attack, however, the president dug up a wild lie that Democrats are responsible. He wasted no time in condemning U.S. immigration policy and the American judicial system, thereby heartening terrorists worldwide. Apparently, it wasn’t too soon for that. Furthermore, Mr. Trump said “Democrat” instead of “Democratic.”

Stupid or sleazy? — Or both? ■

 

Quotes of the Week

“We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this [terrorism] takes place.”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Cabinet meeting; 11/1/2017.)

“I’m not under investigation, as you know. … I’m actually not angry at anybody.”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; interview conducted by Haberman, Maggie & Baker, Peter; The New York Times; 11/1/2017.)

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Post-Deadline Developments:

“President Calls U.S. Criminal Justice System ‘a Joke and … a Laughingstock’” (11/1/2017)
“Sam Clovis ‘Withdraws’ From His USDA Nomination Amid Russia Probe Connections” (11/2/2017)
“Papadopoulos Russian Connections Threatening Exposure for Sessions and Trump” (11/2/2017)

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Historical References: