“Hot on the Trail”
Manafort, finally, has flipped. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager for the spring and summer of 2016, present at the Trump Tower meeting where Don Jr. sought Russia’s help to throw the election, agreed this week to tell Robert Mueller everything he knows, pleading guilty to two charges in a federal court in Virginia.
Manafort had held out for months, seemingly more interested in the possibility of a pardon from Trump than leniency from the courts. There was also speculation that he feared Putin more than he feared jail, as it’s common for opponents of the Russian state to wind up dead – poisoned, bludgeoned or pushed off a balcony. Even this week, as it became known that he was in discussions with Mueller’s team, there was no sign that he was willing to cooperate. He kept that under wraps until the very last minute.
Trump has, uncharacteristically, been silent. The plea agreement happened on Friday, yet this weekend there have been no tweets, no whining or attacks. Manafort appears to be the witness with the clearest view of the collusion that has taken place so far and who was involved. (Though Trump’s mantra is “no collusion”, soliciting information from a foreign government with the intent to use it against a political opponent is collusion, or, more accurately, conspiracy to commit electoral fraud. It doesn’t matter if the plan was carried out. It’s the intent that counts.) This appears to be the closest the investigation has gotten to Trump, who almost certainly must have been involved. Grab your popcorn and stay tuned.
Republicans still seem intent on railroading the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. They’ve withheld documents and twisted the confirmation process beyond recognition. Though Democrats have fought back, and hard, absent turning two Republican senators, the won’t have the votes to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Then towards the end of the week Senator Dianne Feinstein produced an allegation – which she had apparently had since July – that Kavanaugh had committed sexual assault while in high school.
Today the accuser stepped forward. Christine Blasey Ford spoke with the Washington Post about the alleged assault, which happened when she was about fifteen. She had hoped to keep her identity a secret, but finally decided to come forward and tell the story in her own words. She alleges that Kavanaugh, quite drunk, held her down, groped her and tried to take her clothes off, at one point putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She was able to escape and didn’t tell anyone until she was in a therapy session in 2012. She has passed a polygraph test.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegation and Senator Grassley, on less than twenty-four hours notice, produced a letter from 65 high school women friends of Kavanaugh attesting to his character. There has been wide speculation about how 65 women were found, contacted and signed up in such a short time, unless the allegation had been suspected.
Democrats are calling for the nomination to be slowed so that the allegations can be heard and reviewed. As of this writing, it appears as though Jeff Flake is balking at moving forward as well. We’ll see if he keeps his courage. If so, he’ll be the first Republican to do so. As we’ve seen in their approach to Trump, they’ve long since abandoned concern for the qualifications of anyone on their side. They have been willing, over and over, to look the other way at literally anything.
Trump seemingly must have at least one thing a week that he goes lunatic about. This past week, with the approach of Hurricane Florence towards the Carolinas coming soon after the news that the actual death count in Puerto Rico from last year’s Hurricane Maria was close to 3,000, it finally occurred to the president* that people were blaming him for the negligent response that resulted in such an unprecedented catastrophe. The buck never stops when Trump’s around, so he turned to conspiracy rantings, claiming that the numbers had been grossly inflated by – the Democrats. This was as big a lie as the other ~ 5,000 false things he’s managed to say since being sworn in, but it had the distinction of ignoring the tragic and preventable deaths of three thousand souls, making it perhaps Trump’s new low. Unfortunately, too many newspapers still failed to report the news properly, mindlessly parroting Trump’s lie in their headlines. Rule of thumb: never quote him in a headline and always state first either the truth or the fact that. Trump was lying. Not so hard, really, is it, New York Times?
In Other News
House Republicans are planning yet another tax scam (2.0) before the midterm elections. The measure, moving through the House, would lock in tax cuts for middle-class Americans, but also be another bonanza for the super-rich. It would add an estimated $3.8 trillion to the deficit. Having failed with their first tax scam to win the affection of voters, their aim with this one seems clear: kiss up to their mega-rich donors.
Trump announced another $200B of tariffs on Chinese goods. Americans of all stripes will be the ones hurt.
51 days to go. Trump’s popularity is dropping and forecasts are moving more in our direction as the midterm election draws near, especially for retaking the House, but now also with some hope of retaking the Senate. It’s encouraging news, but what it needs to encourage us to do is to work every day to turn out the vote in red districts (House) and states (Senate). We can’t take anything for granted, including the notion that someone else will do the work for us of getting out the vote. The danger, frankly, is too great. Republicans have proven time and again that they will do nothing to stop Trump. If they are reelected, he will go full-on dictator and there will be no turning back. This is our last chance. Don’t blow it. Let us get you connected to actions you can take now to make a difference – the difference. Let’s win this thing!
– Tom Benthin
*indicates highly questionable legitimacy
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.