This Is Not Normal, May 22, 2018 – May 28, 2018

This is your weekly reminder that this is NOT NORMAL.

  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president’s daughter to receive seven new Chinese trademarks at the same time that the president was vowing to prevent a Chinese telecom company from going out of business even though the company has a history of doing business with Iran and North Korea.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that an adviser to the president during the 2016 presidential campaign sought personal access to the president’s opponent’s emails that were stolen by Wikileaks.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president said in a speech that MS-13 “killed a cop for the sake of making a statement,” which is a lie.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for a congressional candidate to say that Puerto Rico evacuees who have since immigrated to Florida should not be allowed to vote there. Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the EPA to bar reporters from certain media outlets from covering a national summit on water contamination, reportedly forcibly shoving one reporter out of the EPA building.
  • It is NOT  NORMAL for the president’s son to have met with a deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank during the presidential campaign.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to cancel a planned summit with North Korea without alerting South Korea first and while American reporters are still in North Korea. (At the moment this meeting seems to be Schrodinger’s Summit, as no one seems to yet know for certain whether it is actually cancelled or not.) Also NOT NORMAL: the Trump-Kim commemorative coins.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the White House to schedule a background briefing for several dozen reporters and then when reporters quote the source without attribution in a story attack the reporters for making up the source via the president’s Twitter feed. (Important: the source was quoted without attribution because that’s what a background briefing is, by definition.)
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to state in a speech that his administration was giving the military its first raise in ten years. In fact, the military has had a pay raise every year for more than three decades, and the 2.4% raise this year was smaller than the 3.4% raise in 2010.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s personal lawyer, who had only three clients, met with a Russian oligarch eleven days before the inauguration and was later paid $500,000 for “consulting work.”
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the White House attempted to restrict a classified briefing on an FBI informant who had contacted advisers to the president’s campaign to Republican lawmakers.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the director of the federal prison system resigned because the Department of Justice was flouting “departmental norms” and because his role was being marginalized due to a turf war between the Attorney General and the president’s son-in-law/senior adviser.
  • The president’s Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to
    • repeatedly complain about a “spy” who infiltrated his campaign, and falsely claim that a former head of intelligence had admitted to spying on his campaign (in fact, the head of intelligence said clearly that the intelligence community was spying on what the Russians were doing, which is one of the purposes of the intelligence community);
    • call the head of intelligence in question the “dumbest former Intelligence Head, who has the problem of lying a lot”;
    • refer to the intelligence community as “the Criminal Deep State”;
    • repeatedly try to make “Spygate” happen;
    • say that the “GREAT Men & Women of the FBI are starting to speak out against Comey, McCabe and all of the political corruption and poor leadership,” which does not appear to be true, and then retweet this tweet a day later;
    • claim that Democrats are “so obviously rooting against us in our negotiations with North Korea” and “coming to the defense of MS 13 thugs, saying that they are individuals & must be nurtured,” neither of which is true;
    • falsely claim in a tweet supporting the Chicago Police protest that “killings are at a record pace” (shootings in Chicago are down 21% this year and were down 28% last year);
    • tweet “Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the Border into the U.S.” (this is not a law but a policy that his own administration announced earlier this month);
    • refer to the New York Times as the “Failing and Corrupt New York Times”;
    • complain that his campaign was not contacted about “the Russia Problem” (he was personally briefed on the potential for Russian infiltration in July 2016);
    • tweet “Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation…They went back home in tatters!” (this is by any measure a strange thing for a president to tweet); and
    • use his Memorial Day tweet to brag that the men and women who died in war would be very pleased to see how he is running the country.
  • Unfortunately this week saw several references to both “Crooked Hillary” and “Witch Hunt.”
Advertisements

This Is Not Normal, May 15, 2018 – May 21, 2018

This is your weekly reminder that this is NOT NORMAL.

  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to try to provoke a constitutional crisis by demanding (via Twitter) that the Justice Department initiate an investigation of his political rivals. Previous presidents have respected the independence of the FBI and other investigatory branches of the Justice Department.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to insist that the Department of Justice reveal to them the identity of a confidential informant even though doing so could jeopardize ongoing investigations.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to refer to human beings, even violent human beings, as animals. It is also NOT NORMAL for the White House to issue a press release with the title “What You Need to Know about the Violent Animals of MS-13.” Dehumanization of certain groups is a common tactic of authoritarians which opens the door for mass human rights violations.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to urge the United States postmaster general to raise shipping prices for Amazon and other companies because of a personal vendetta against the Washington Post, which is owned by the owner of Amazon.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the lieutenant governor of Texas to argue that a school shooting in the state (in which ten people died) could be blamed partly on “too many entrances and too many exits.”
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s son/campaign adviser met with representatives of several foreign countries during the 2016 presidential campaign in an effort to get foreign help for the president’s campaign. It is illegal for foreign governments and individuals who are not American citizens to be involved with American elections.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president nominated the acting secretary of veterans affairs to run the agency permanently without telling said acting secretary before making the announcement.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to violate ethics guidelines by belatedly disclosing a 2017 payment in excess of $100,000 that he made to his former lawyer, possibly to be used as hush money for the adult film actress with whom the president had a one-night stand. Because this payment should have been disclosed a year ago, the Office of Government Ethics referred the discrepancy to the deputy attorney general.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president’s lawyer to make statements about the special counsel’s intentions and internal deadlines in an apparent attempt to pressure the special counsel to finish his investigation by the end of the summer, especially when at least some of these statements appear to have no basis in fact.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the United States cancelled a planned military exercise with South Korea because North Korea objected.
  • The president’s Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to
    • refer to the White House press corps as the “Fake News Media” and the New York Times as “the Failing and Crooked (but not as Crooked as Hillary Clinton) @nytimes”;
    • repeatedly rant about the investigation of his campaign’s ties with Russia and other countries, calling it “the greatest Witch Hunt in American History” (Giles Corey and Rebecca Nurse would beg to differ) and referring to the investigators as “13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats”;
    • call the fact that the FBI had an informant about his campaign “bigger than Watergate” and claim that the informant was “infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign” (there is no evidence that this is true);
    • argue that the “Fake News” deliberately misinterpreted his reference to “Animals” when he was only talking about members of MS-13 (the transcript is ambiguous);
    • wonder why the former FBI acting director was not being investigated for a donation to his wife’s campaign in 2015 (the director’s wife received the same kinds of donations any Democratic candidate in the race would have received); and
    • respond to a school shooting with “School shooting in Texas. Early reports not looking good. God bless all!”
  • In addition, I regret to report that both “Crooked Hillary” and “Witch Hunt” made a return this week.

This Is Not Normal, May 8, 2018 – May 14, 2018

This is your weekly reminder that this is NOT NORMAL.

  • It is NOT NORMAL that a South Dakota state senator and candidate for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives said, “And then all that has to happen is that there will be one more terrorist attack between now and then, and I will be the–just by the Trump effect–I will be the candidate.”
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the Department of Education halted investigations into abuses by for-profit colleges such as the DeVry Institute after several former employees for such institutions had been given high-level positions in the department.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president is considering personally intervening to overturn sanctions imposed by the Commerce Department against a Chinese tech company, ZTE.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the U.S. ambassador to Moscow is joining a panel discussion at an economic forum with the oligarch who is under American sanctions and who has been linked to several payments to the president’s lawyer.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee continues to demand sensitive case files from the Department of Justice, despite concerns about breaching the separation of powers and potentially endangering witnesses and operatives should the contents of the files be leaked.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president shouted at the secretary of Homeland Security for several minutes in front of the entire cabinet because the number of immigrants entering the country illegally is increasing, despite the fact that vetting of immigrants has intensified and several visa programs ended.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to pull out of a multilateral nuclear agreement with another country over the objections to the other signers of the agreement and despite the fact that the agreement was, to all appearances, working well.
  • The president’s Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to
    • argue that opposition to his nominee for CIA director was predicated on the idea that she was too “TOUCH ON TERROR!” when in fact the issue is primarily her previous support for torture;
    • post that a former secretary of State, who was reportedly engaged in “shadow diplomacy,” “can’t get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it!” (I am not a fan of shadow diplomacy, but public insult via tweet is not the best way to handle the situation);
    • repeatedly call the media covering his administration “Fake News” because they are not uniformly complimentary;
    • refer to a sitting senator as “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer”;
    • describe an upcoming meeting with the leader of North Korea as “highly anticipated,” as though he were resolving a television cliffhanger;
    • argue after a knife attack in Paris that “At some point countries will have to open their eyes & see what is really going on!” without offering condolences to the leadership of France or to the family of the person who was killed.
  • We have gone an entire week with no reference to “Crooked Hillary” or a witch hunt. In fact, there has been no “Crooked Hillary” mention since mid-April. Progress!

This Is Not Normal, May 1, 2018 – May 7, 2018

This is your weekly reminder that this is NOT NORMAL.

  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s son-in-law/senior adviser has had to update his financial disclosures more than forty times.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s administration allegedly hired a spy firm to look for incriminating information about members of the previous administration who negotiated the Iran deal.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the Qatari government purchased an apartment in the president’s New York apartment building for 6.5 million dollars.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s administration has given more than 50,000 Hondurans who have been living in the United States under temporary protected status for almost twenty years twenty months to leave the country.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president to anger two of the nation’s allies in a speech to the NRA by claiming that terrorist attacks in their countries could have been prevented if their citizens had been armed.
  • It is NOT NORMAL for the president’s new lawyer to potentially expose the president to legal jeopardy by contradicting the president’s claim that he did not know his former lawyer had paid off an adult film actress with whom the president had had a one-night stand, as well as claiming that the president had repaid the former lawyer. It is also NOT NORMAL for the new lawyer to, in the same interview, announce that North Korea was going to release three American prisoners which (a) does not fall under his purview and (b) has not in fact happened as of several days later.
  • It is NOT NORMAL that the president’s bodyguard seized the president’s medical files and the president’s photograph from his former personal physician’s office in Feburary 2017 after the doctor gave an interview about the president’s medical history. (Admittedly, this is a real “can I root for no one to win” situation.) It is also NOT NORMAL that the doctor now claims the president dictated the 2015 letter in which the doctor said the president would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
  • It is NOT NORMAL that two aides to the director of the Environmental Protection Agency have resigned in the wake of an investigation into corruption and misuse of government funds at the agency.
  • The president’s Twitter feed continues to be NOT NORMAL. To be specific, this week it was NOT NORMAL for the president to
    • personally attack the senator whom he blames for causing his Veterans Affairs secretary nominee to withdraw his nomination;
    • refer to the White House media as “Fake News” multipple times;
    • claim that the leaked questions for him from the special counsel included “no questions on Collusion [sic],” when in fact thirteen of them did concern collusion and argue that the special counsel’s investigation had been started due to “illegally leaked classified information,” which is not in fact the case;
    • argue that he could not have obstructed justice “for a crime that never happened” (note that (a) the special counsel has filed 23 indictments and (b) legally it is possible to obstruct justice even if no one is convicted of an underlying crime) and later tweet “There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back [sic]”;
    • threaten to “use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!” with the Russia investigation;
    • fail to mention the volcano eruption in Hawaii;
    • claim that the previous administration had failed to get three hostages in North Korea released, when two of them were captured after the current president took office;
    • argue that “Democrats and liberals in Congress want to disarm law-abiding Americans at the same time they are releasing dangerous criminal aliens and savage gang members onto our streets” (that is not a reasonable characterization of either legal immigrants or undocumented immigrants);
    • argue that his nominee for CIA director is opposed because she is “too tough on terror” (in fact, the opposition is largely due to her support of torture in previous administrations); and
    • argue that the Russia investigation (or, as he put it, “this Phony Witch Hunt [sic]”) would “wrongfully impact the Mid-Term Elections [sic], which is what the Democrats always intended” and that “Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late!”