A few articles in the political news today caught my eye, and appear to demonstrate a disturbing pattern:
- A Pattern of “Yes” Men in his Administration. This news item from the NY Times describes how Pres. Trump overruled his newly minted secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, and rejected the secretary’s choice for his deputy at the department, Elliott Abrams, a conservative who had served under President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush. This leaves Tillerson without a trained assisted to help guide the first-time government official around the State Department headquarters. But what is really interesting is why Trump rejected him. According to the article, the rejection came after Trump learned of Mr. Abrams’s pointed criticisms of the president when he was running for president, the administration official said. Among those criticisms was a column headlined “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate,” which appeared in May 2016 in The Weekly Standard. You don’t back Trump, you don’t get the job. Never a good sign when the President surrounds himself with “yes” men.
- A Pattern of Nepotism for Advantage. In the same article was a discussion about how the leading candidate for Solicitor General, Charles J. Cooper, said he was withdrawing as a possible nominee for solicitor general of the United States “after witnessing the treatment of my friend Jeff Sessions,” who was approved as attorney general Wednesday evening after bruising attacks by Senate Democrats over his civil rights record. What’s interesting here is not the criticism issue from the Senate, but who is left. According to the article, “His withdrawal appears to leave George T. Conway, a New York lawyer who is married to Kellyanne Conway, a top White House aide, as the leading contender for solicitor general.” Let’s see, his Secretary of Transportation is married to Mitch McConnell. His Solicitor General would be marred to Conway. No problem there.
- A Pattern with Judges. Also in the NY Times was an interesting op-ed from Sen. Chuck Schumer on Judge Neil Gorsuch. The article noted how the Judge refused to answer questions regarding his positions on various past cases, or even how the Constitution would be interpreted. From this, Schumer had a very interesting observation: “As I sat with Judge Gorsuch, a disconcerting feeling came over me that I had been through this before — and I soon realized I had, with Judge John G. Roberts Jr. He was similarly charming, polished and erudite. Like Neil Gorsuch, he played the part of a model jurist. And just like Neil Gorsuch, he asserted his independence, claiming to be a judge who simply called “balls and strikes,” unbiased by both ideology and politics. When Judge Roberts became Justice Roberts, we learned that we had been duped by an activist judge. The Roberts court systematically and almost immediately shifted to the right, violating longstanding precedent with its rulings in Citizens United and in Shelby v. Holder, which gutted the Voting Rights Act.”
- A Pattern of Racism. An article on Vox explored why Pres. Trump keeps referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas”. It is a reference to her run for Senate and a claim that she had been told she had Native American relatives in her past, but insufficient to claim membership in the appropriate tribe. Although Warren told the story, there is no record she ever tried to use that status to her advantage. The pattern here? According to Vox: “Trump’s use of this particular nickname combines several of his worst habits: his inability to let perceived insults slide, his bullying mockery of opponents — and most of all, his general cluelessness on race issues. Trump has decades of racist statements and behavior under his belt. He has a particularly bad habit of essentializing people based on their heritage or ethnicity. Just look at his repeated comments alleging that federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over two class action suits against Trump University, is biased against Trump because of his Mexican heritage. (Curiel is American, born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants.) Conflating all Native Americans with “Pocahontas” is another example of Trump’s racist habits.”Trump’s inability to discern the difference between Sen. Warren and Pocahontas is no accident,” Cherokee Nation citizen Mary Kathryn Nagle told MSNBC’s Adam Howard. “Instead, his attack on her native identity reflects a dominant American culture that has made every effort to diminish native women to nothing other than a fantastical, oversexualized, Disney character.”
Some of Trump’s patterns appear to be biting him in his orange tush:
- Violations of the Logan Act. Federal law prohibits private citizens from conducting diplomacy with foreign nations. But, according to the NY Times, that is exactly what current National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did. Specifically, he discussed lifting of Russian Sanctions with Russia before his confirmation, while still a private citizen. Even more significantly, he lied about doing so to Congress, and apparently, so did VP Mike Pence. From the article: “Federal officials who have read the transcript of the call were surprised by Mr. Flynn’s comments, since he would have known that American eavesdroppers closely monitor such calls. They were even more surprised that Mr. Trump’s team publicly denied that the topics of conversation included sanctions. The call is the latest example of how Mr. Trump’s advisers have come under scrutiny from American counterintelligence officials. The F.B.I. is also investigating Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative.” Pence’s inclusion is interesting — it could provide the opportunity to impeach and remove Pence, get an acceptable replacement VP, and then get Trump removed or resigned. Worked for Richard Nixon.
- Violation of Federal Ethics Law. Federal law prohibits administration officials from promoting or endorsing a private business. Yet that is exactly what Kellyanne Conway did when she told people to go buy Ivanka Trump’s products. She has supposedly been “counseled” about this. Related to this is the President’s behavior itself. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, was intended to close a loophole to prevent legislators from using nonpublic information for private profit or engaging in insider trading. But a lesser known section, 18 U.S. Code § 227, also restricts the president and vice president from using their office to influence or make threats about an employment practice of any private company, especially if it’s solely driven by partisan political feelings. The section of the law that applies is sufficiently broad, says Markovic, who has written on the Trump conflicts issues, to extend to other employment decisions such as vendors or independent contractors like Ivanka Trump.
It is interesting how the Obama administration was relatively scandal-free; certainly after months and months of investigations, nothing was proved. Here, there is loads of evidence of scandal — in just three weeks — but nary a single investigation. I guess it isn’t wrong if it is done by a member of your own party.