Trumplandia: April 6 — 13, 2019

Spring Cleaning Edition

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APPROVAL ALERT AT PRESS TIME:
FiveThirtyEight Poll: 42.1% — down from 42.2% last week
Rasmussen Poll: 49% — down from 51% last week

Welcome to Trumplandia, a place where with a bit of wit and snark, we keep the world caught up on all of the tasty Nuggets-O-Trump you may have heard about but were too busy to care. Because most of this minutia occurs just below the massive headlines about the POTUS, it’s in a land of its own. Here, an infusion of social media, video clips and print media meld with our outdated political views to make more delicious “Fake News” about our Commander-in-Chief.

So just like the president, we start it all with a little tweet like this:

Lowering the Barr

The week of our Trump — Apr. 6, 2019: Although spring had sprung weeks ago, in the world of President Donald J. Trump this week was dedicated to tidying up a number of items that had grown sloppy and frayed.

Focusing on content from the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the ongoing “National Emergency” at the southwestern border where migrants are attempting to gain asylum, the White House seemed intent on sweeping matters under the rug rather than coming clean with the American public.

It began on April 9 when Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Appropriations subcommittee as it applied to the Justice Department’s budget. Barr released a memo on the “bottom-line” findings of the report on the election that Barr said showed no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which wanted Trump to win and attempted to help him do so. In addition, the Barr memo quoted Mueller as stating the president was not cleared of obstruction of justice.

Appearing before Congress for the first time since he released the four-page summary of Mueller’s report, Barr said he expected to release the “full report” to Congress within a week, but he still had a bit of tidying up to do first.

To date, no one but Barr and possibly Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have seen the full report outside of the Mueller team, which has stated in media reports that the findings were supposed to go to Congress for further consideration. That exchange is not expected until the document is reviewed and prepared with redactions.

Barr said he will redact the almost 400-page report, but would somehow be “transparent” about what information will be blacked out. He said passages that relate to grand jury testimony would be among the areas he blackens out. He refused to say whether the president has been briefed about the report.

While Barr’s April 9 testimony before the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives was relatively uneventful, his visit to the Republican-controlled Senate the next day was historic. During the Senate session Barr said without providing proof that the FBI and other agencies spied on the campaign of then candidate Donald Trump in 2016.

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The statement echoed comments about the probe from Trump himself, who has held there was a “deep state conspiracy” against his campaign generated by members of law enforcement who were investigating members of his team illegally in an effort to thwart his run for the presidency.

Barr said he felt it was necessary to investigate how U.S. intelligence agencies conducted themselves during the probe into Russia’s meddling in our elections, but also on how members of the president’s campaign were investigated.

“I think spying did occur,” said Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement officer. “But the question Is whether it was adequately predicated and I am not suggesting that it wasn’t adequately predicated.”

He later appeared to walk back his incendiary statements about investigators spying on the Trump campaign, admitting he had no proof such a thing had happened or why he believed there to be wrong-doing.

The statement angered congressional Democrats including Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who said such statements perpetuate “conspiracy theories” and is beneath the office of the attorney general.

Democrats and Intelligence officials were concerned because Barr’s statement seemed to make no distinction between surveillance and spying. Many have said the statement before the Senate has sullied Barr’s legacy, which had been seen as exceptional despite past ties to Iran-Contra.

John Dean, former White House counsel under President Richard Nixon, said the statement makes Barr now “untrustworthy” in the handling of the Mueller report.

Trump said the Mueller investigation has exonerated him on any wrongdoing, but the launch of a federal investigation into his relationship with the Russians was an “attempted coup” and “treasonous.”

Former FBI Director James Comey, who presided over the beginning of the investigation into Russian meddling, said he had no idea what Barr meant by “spying.” He said Barr’s statement was “concerning” because the FBI and Department of Justice conduct surveillances that are court ordered:

“If the attorney general has come to the belief that that should be called spying, wow, that’s going to require a whole lot of conversations inside the Department of Justice.”

Comey was fired in 2017 by Trump for his handling of an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server also in 2016.

Cleaning House

The public learned from Twitter that Department of Home Land Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had been fired when the president named Kevin McAleenan acting chief as part of a Sunday evening tweet. The unexpected correspondence came moments after Trump thanked Nielsen for her service and announced she’d be leaving, all on social media, of course.

The decision on Nielsen, a confidante of former Chief of Staff John Kelly, came following an evening meeting with the president, but is thought to be a by-product of urgings from Trump Senior Advisor Stephen Miller.

Nielsen is best known for implementing a system at the U.S.-Mexico border that allows children to be separated from their parents and places them in cages while they await their parents’ request for asylum.

Nielsen officially left the DHS on April 10, the evening before she announced the “imminent resignation” of Claire Grady, the acting deputy of DHS. Grady was statutorily next in line to head DHS in an acting capacity, but her exit allowed the president to install McAleenan.

Nielsen’s departure follows the withdrawal of the nomination of acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Ronald Vitiello on April 5. Nominated last year, Vitiello served as chief of the U.S. Border Patrol and acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

The withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination allegedly coincided with information that the acting director of ICE he had voiced reservations about a Trump plan for closing the border. Trump abandoned the plan but announced a tougher stance on immigration and the “national emergency” at the Mexican border.

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Former Director of the Secret Service Randolph D. Alles.

On April 8, the White House also announced the departure of Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, reported by The New York Times to have been cruelly called “Dumbo” by Trump because of his ears. Alles, a 40-year governmental employee, will be replaced by James M. Murray.

Trump said last week’s moves are part of an effort to take an even harder line on immigration. Trump has placed the 33-year-old Miller in charge of “border activities,” stating that despite dismissing four high-level officials in about a week, the changes should not be seen as a “house cleaning.”

Meanwhile, at press time, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the government can temporarily continue to send asylum-seekers back to Mexico. Yesterday, Trump confirmed he is considering a plan that would release migrants into U.S. sanctuary cities as retribution to his political enemies.

A Dumpster Fire!

With so much cleaning going on there had to be a dumpster somewhere, and as usual, Trump’s dumpster was a hot mess.

In fact, before the close of business yesterday a man drove a motorized scooter in front of the
White House and set himself and a jacket he was wearing on fire. The incident occurred at about 3 p.m. on Pennsylvania Avenue and caused street closings in the area.

Secret Service agents responded immediately, extinguished the blaze and provided first aid to the man, who was then arrested. Officials said the unidentified man was not thought to be a threat to the president and initially was thought to be someone who was mentally impaired.

Speaking of dumpster fires, on April 9 Trump considered nominating former Republican candidate for president and Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain as a nominee to the board of the nation’s central bank.

Cain, who runs a pro-Trump super PAC, was a candidate for the 2012 GOP nomination for president. He left the field, which ultimately selected Mitt Romney as its nominee, after rumors surfaced of sexual harassment.

Famous for his 9-9-9 budgetary plan, Cain’s nomination was supposed to give Trump more say on the Federal Reserve, fill one of two open seats on the Fed’s board and serve as another way to nudge his Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. But Cain’s nomination hit a snag with Senate Republicans and was DOA before it became a possibility.

Many GOP senators said a Cain nomination would politicize the Fed, which has historically been above the Washington, D.C. political apparatus. Faster than you could say: “shucky ducky,” Cain was expected to remove his name from consideration, according to ABC News.

However, while reports circulated Thursday and Friday about his planned withdrawal, no official word has yet come from Cain.

On April 9, the president was burned by Warner Brothers when it learned the commander-in-chief was using music from “Dark Knight Rises” in a trailer for his 2020 run for re-election. Titled: “Trump — the Great Victory,” the video showed the president’s unlikely rise to power accompanied by unauthorized use of a tune composed by Hans Zimmer for the 2012 Batman movie.

On that same day, Warner Brothers announced it would file a copyright-infringement complaint against the orange knight to have the video Donnie shared taken down. Twitter disabled the Trump video on April 10, a day after the president posted it on his personal feed with the phrase: “Make America Great Again.”

The April 9 post appears to be that rare item on Twitter that was deleted from Trump’s very active account. A new version was reissued on YouTube on April 10 with new music by a group calling itself “Cordicon.”

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