Reporter’s notebook: Pennsylvania rep finds new way to get Trump’s interest

— Photo by J. Scott Applewhate, Associated Press, and painting by Wingard.
The names, faces and events that happened while we were distracted by Donald Trump’s disgusting and weird remarks about a female cable news network anchor.

Want to bet Pennsylvania taxpayers paid for this?

reports portraits of Donald and Melania Trump were wandering around Capitol Hill last week looking for a home. Lost. After being sighted near the office of Vice President Mike Pence, who declined ownership, they arrived at the office of Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly, who confirmed the artist, Barry Wingard, is a constituent.

“This is a person taking their talent and their time to show their appreciation,” Kelly said, adding that Wingard was “very humble.” Wingard personally drove the paintings five hours to Washington. Three other paintings are commissioned.

The paintings of Melania and Donald appear to have been based on Associated Press photographs. Wingard claimed he paid royalties for their use. Kelly of late bragged about voting for the Obamacare repeal bill. He is up for election in 2018.

He could be retired in luxury right now

Former Eagle Scout and ExxonMobil big chief Rex Tillerson lost his cool last week, blowing up and yelling at White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and others over obstacles to hiring. Accustomed to being supreme commander at a global energy company, he reportedly insists on personally interviewing candidates in his fiefdom and has no love of political hacks. It gets better, er, worse. He also complained that the White House is leaking bad stories about him to the media. And he doesn’t like taking orders from the young whippersnapper political aides.

We don’t know what the multimillionaire is complaining about. His staff, after all, is facing a 30 percent cut under Trump’s budget proposal — positions he won’t have to interview for — and presidential First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner has been doing a lot of the secretary’s work for him by refereeing that Israel-Palestine thing. And he sang the company song as expected during that embarrassing Cabinet meeting where all the little zombies scraped and bowed to Trump’s ego.

We were hoping this was true

Vice has retracted two stories (!) saying Trump is just a dummy. The brouhaha broke out after a rumor the Trump robotic figure, slated to join other former presidents in the “Hall of Presidents” exhibit at Disney World in Florida, and would not have a speaking part. About 15,000 people signed a petition to keep him silent.

“Donald Trump ran a Presidential campaign on hateful speech, misogyny, racism and xenophobia. In doing so, he has tainted the legacy of the American Presidency forever. He is perhaps best known for how he uses his words sometimes carelessly, yet oftentimes with the specific intent of degrading, insulting and demeaning not only those who do not agree with him on any given topic, but entire groups of people including Mexicans, Muslims, women and the disabled,” the petition explained, adding Trump-speech is not suitable for children and families.

Disney said Trump will have a speaking part, like all other presidents since 1993, and that a recording session has been scheduled. The exhibit with Big Orange is expected to open in late 2017, unless he complains to Disney he didn’t get the starring role.

A really big problem no one is talking about

Climate change and immigration, two sweeping international problems and the things that would keep Trump up at night if he had a conscience, are apparently becoming one gigantic headache. Stephanie Leutert, a University of Texas immigration expert, says climate change-induced migration gets lost in discussions about crime, gang activity, economic conditions and job shortages. But changing weather conditions are an undeniable factor in Central American migration. Seasonal rains are coming too late for crops, hot and dry periods are lasting too long, crop yields are down and are susceptible to severe storms.

“Studies consistently show that Honduras is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to the effects of climate change,” Leutert says. “Honduran migrants often report violence and poverty as the primary reasons for why they leave their country, and these two factors are both real and extremely well documented. As farmers lose their livelihoods and ranchers are left unable to feed their cattle, more Central Americans will be left scrambling to make ends meet. This family-level instability then grows, resulting in clashes over scarce resources, more criminal activity, and increased tensions and potential for social conflict.”

Say goodbye to Thomas Homan

Thomas Homan, we hardly knew you. As acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he appeared to disagree with Big Orange last week on the issue of crime and immigrants, specifically, immigrants committing crime. Buzzfeed and CNN reported Homan gave the remarks in an off-camera briefing on the same day Trump announced new immigration policies. The same day.

“Did I say aliens commit more crimes than U.S. citizens? I didn’t say that,” Homan said according to transcripts from the briefing. “I’m saying, number one, they’re in the country illegally.”

Trump has routinely blamed much of the country’s crime problem on immigrants, even in a meeting with national law enforcement officers, people who know their own records don’t justify the claim. Some 41,000 undocumented immigrants were rounded up for deportation under new enforcement rules in Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Signing the new immigration policies, Trump bragged he was halfway to his goal of immigrants deported this year. “You know, we’re pretty much at the 50 percent mark,” he said. “We’re getting them out as fast as we can get them out and we’re freeing up towns — actually liberating towns, if you can believe that we have to do that in the United States of America.”

Actually, we can’t believe that.

“We only use good beryllium.”

If you cross-reference your medical dictionary with an encyclopedia on minerals, you get beryllium disease, which kills about 100 people a year. It’s mostly mined in the U.S. and is used for x-rays, rocket nozzles, tools and other instruments that are exposed to high temperatures. Exposure to beryllium — about 71,000 people in shipyards and construction — is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety and Administration. Stay with us, it gets better.

Or it’s supposed to be regulated. A pair of worker safety rules written during the Obama Administration have been undone by Trump’s evil minions. The New York Times reports that an industry group calling itself the Abrasive Blasting Manufacturers Alliance argues there’s no evidence linking beryllium in abrasive blasting material to beryllium disease. Records show the group has spent at least $60,000 to lobby OSHA since January. When Trump was sworn in.

Do you see me laughing?

The theory that Trump is making America the laughingstock of the world just got easier to argue. When Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross went over his allotted time in a live video presentation to an economics group in Berlin, organizers cut off his microphone. The audience “laughed and clapped in response,” reported Bloomberg. German Chancellor Angela Merkel then got up and argued against one of Ross’ points.

Okay, it was Ross and not Trump, and the Germans do have an ax to grind over Trump’s trade remarks, but it just proves the theory that the world is watching what goes on here in the daily circus.

More government money and influence from Eastern Europe

Connie Mack IV, former Florida congressman, former Hooters executive, defender of WikiLeaks and occasional pugilist, has added Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban to his dance card — to the tune of $70,000 a month.

Orban is closely allied with Vladimir Putin and is responsible for tamping down political opposition in Hungary. For his part, Mack will work as a lobbyist, introducing Orban to White House officials, agency heads and with any luck, Trump himself. He is already in correspondence with Pence and about 20 other elected representatives. Although he criticized Trump in the run-up to the presidential election, Mack has seen it wise to change his tune, and releases flattering remarks on Orban’s behalf.

The strategy is well tailored to the Trump era, in which foreign leaders have found the best way to get in the good graces of the new administration is to lavish praise on the president, preferably within earshot, the Daily Beast reported. Orban has said he believes that he and Trump “have a common voice.” Another Hungarian has already found his way into the White House, a former Hungarian military analyst who serves as one of Trump’s counterterrorism aides. Sebastian Gorka made headlines by attending an inaugural ball wearing a Hungarian medal tied to the Nazi party formed after World War I.

The newspaper Hungary Today asked Mack how he could praise Trump, given his recent criticisms. Mack was a Jeb Bush supporter. “At the end of the day, the client is right, and the end of the day my job is to do what the clients thinks is the right thing to do,” he said.


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