Trumplandia: Feb. 29 — Mar. 7, 2020

What? Me Worry? Edition

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APPROVAL ALERT AT PRESS TIME:
FiveThirtyEight Poll: 42.8% — down from 43.8 last week
Rasmussen Poll: 47% — same as 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 Here, an infusion of social media, video clips and print media meld with our outdated political views to make more delicious “Fake News” about our Commander-in-Chief.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:

It’s Getting Dumb and Dumber

The week of our Trump — Feb. 29, 2020: Yep, this week was “beautiful” and “perfect” just like every other week has been under the orange autocrat currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Still on message and insisting that everyone else be just as bright and bouncy, the Democratic hoax of an epidemic continued its consistent march across the country, leaving state governments to essentially fend for themselves as the federal government failed to provide test kits for the ill.

Without even the attempt to officially count the number of those infected by the contagious and deadly coronavirus, the coronavirus had killed 17 Americans at press time and more than 330 people had been infected. Worldwide, health officials estimate 100,000 people have been infected and more than 3,400 have died.

Such grim news has been greeted by an almost cavalier response from the Trump White House. Trump’s reaction to the contagion has been all over the place.

He’s gone from: It’s the flu; to it’s a Democratic hoax and/or scare tactic; to we pray it goes away; to it’ll disappear when the weather gets hot; to people should keep going to work because the virus is very mild; to wondering aloud this week if a standard flu vaccine would defeat the coronavirus.

While the president celebrates his early efforts to keep foreigners out of the country, the COVID-19 virus had its most successful week in the U.S., spreading from state to state, closing businesses and schools, and killing more Americans.

A less-than-coordinated effort by the United States has surprised many around the world, where countries like China, Iran and Italy have used every possible method, including martial law, to contain the spread of the virus.

Here in America, public health officials believe the contagion circulated unchecked for about two weeks in January before formal efforts were made to contain it. Officials estimate that while government numbers indicate that just over 300 people have been formally diagnosed, some believe cases in the U.S. may already be in the thousands.

A lack of operational testing kits and continued mixed messages from the government have caused official numbers to seem limited, but the overall approach of “Dear Leader” has been to stay calm despite the growing number of cases and the obvious volatility in the stock market.

This week, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), warned that limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus would require “significant action.” Said Tedros:

“This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not the time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops. Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans.”

Tedros said the current epidemic can still be “pushed back,” but only a collective and coordinated effort can make it happen.

This week, members of the Trump administration demonstrated they’ve obviously missed that memo and kept its misinformation campaign churning out confusion. With no need to worry at the center of its methodology, Trump and his supporters have largely let the states figures out how to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Focusing largely on how it will impact the stock market and the perception of how well Trump is doing in an election year, our government has seemingly taken Kevin Bacon’s “all is well” approach from “Animal House” and put it on steroids.

During a press conference on March 4, Trump even went as far as to blame the former administration of President Barack Obama for what is being termed a poor rollout of U.S. testing for COVID-19.

With a lack of test kits available to even test the public for the virus, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention admits initial test kits did not work, allowing the virus to continue spreading undetected.

Caught without a straightforward plan or an explanation as to why simple coordination had not been accomplished three months into the crisis, Trump did what he does best — he lied. He even got CDC Head Robert Redfield to co-sign the lie, by insinuating that the past administration had regulated the kits in a way that needed to be deregulated for medical testing.

At a news conference and flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Trump said:

“The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing. And we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more accurate and rapid fashion.”

Even as members of Congress scrambled to get the proper funding in place in time for Trump to sign what was an $8.3 billion funding measure, some found the time to approach the matter as a joke. Trump sycophant Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) pulled out all the stops to lampoon the process.

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Tweeting a photo, Gaetz showed why he is seen as one of Congress’ most vapid and immature members. Two people with confirmed cases of the virus died in Florida last night, but the yucks just keep coming.

The lunacy and delusion continued for Trump, even after touring areas in Tennessee that were devasted by a tornado earlier in the week.

“I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand,” Trump said, speaking about the coronavirus during a tour of the destruction yesterday. “Every one of these doctors said how do you know so much about this? Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

Yeah, maybe, Donnie, maybe.

The House to the Rescue

Somewhere in the middle of all the chest-pounding that was being done by Trump, the adults in the House of Representatives stepped up and actually put together a responsible funding bill to address some of the concerns over the virus and the lack of a coordinated response by the White House.

Passed on March 4, the spending plan trumped the $2.5 billion requested by the administration last week to blunt the spread of COVID- 19. The Trump plan expected to take $535 million from an Ebola preparedness account.

The House’s $8.3 billion emergency measure provides more than $3 billion in vaccine research and $2.2 billion in prevention and preparedness. The bill also contains $1.25 billion to aid international efforts to stop its spread abroad.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said the funds are new and were not moved from existing accounts. The spending plan passed the House by a vote of 415-2, with only Republican Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Andy Biggs of Arizona voting against it. The measure will provide funds for state and local governments to fight the spread of the virus.

The Senate passed the bill the next day 96-1 with only Sen. Rand Paul (R- Ky), a doctor, voting against it.

Ironically, the measure signed by Trump yesterday was similar to a measure brought before the Senate by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D- NY) last month that asked for $8.5 billion from the Appropriations Committee to help contain the spread of the virus, but his measure was seen as too costly at the time.

Schumer said the administration was woefully unprepared to respond to the healthcare emergency, bordering on incompetent:

“Here in the United States, the Trump administration has been caught flat-footed. The administration has no plan to deal with the coronavirus — no plan and seemingly no urgency to develop one.”

At that time, Trump said the U.S. was in “very good shape” and tweeted that Schumer was only complaining about the amount Trump pledged for publicity.

On March 5, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said test kits created by private manufacturers were expected to be shipped to U.S. labs yesterday. The White House originally expected to have 1 million kits ready, but even that effort fell short.

Labs in Washington state, where a high concentration of deaths have occurred, have used CDC kits with an expected capacity to test only 75,000 people.

Meanwhile, Trump was expected to visit the CDC in Atlanta, but changed his plans after learning a CDC employee at the facility was suspected of having contracted the virus.

During his Tennessee press conference, Trump said the CDC worker was tested “fully,” and tested negative for the virus. The on-again, off-again trip to Atlanta was placed back on the president’s schedule and sandwiched in between his trip to the Nashville area and his return to the Winter White House at Mar-a-Largo in Florida.

Trump seized the opportunity to visit facility labs and to attack Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of the State of Washington. Vice President Mike Pence visited Inslee on Thursday to discuss efforts there to contain the virus. Residents of a nursing home contracted the contagion and 10 have died. Trump said of Inslee:

“The governor is a snake. Mike (Pence) may be happy with him, but I’m not.”

It was unclear at press time if additional test kits had been made available in Washington state.

Oh, You Again?

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After getting himself impeached in anticipation of a run by then Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, Donald Trump’s interest in the former Veep had faded in past weeks after primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada placed him out of money and behind the pack.

With Biden apparently out of the way, the media seemed to believe former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his billions of dollars would take over the field and put the fear of God into Trump.

To a certain degree, they were right.

Bloomberg became an “it” boy in the race after placing third in Nevada, but with clear front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) poised to open a big lead on Super Tuesday, Donnie dimwit salivated over the prospect of a contest in November with the Democratic-Socialist.

Following his typically sophomoric approach to gutter politics, Trump set his sights on “Mini” Mike Bloomberg, “Crazy” Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren, seemingly writing off his old nemesis, Biden.

However, Biden won an impressive victory in South Carolina on Feb. 29 and looked to Super Tuesday as his “Hail Mary.” His prayers were answered when Biden pulled off one of the biggest political comebacks in history by taking 10 of 14 states in the primary. Emerging from the victories on Tuesday, what had been old was new again, and Biden found himself back in the lead among a field of Democratic contenders with now only Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D- Hawaii) and her one earned delegate challenging him.

Immediately the tweets, which had been geared towards promoting Sanders as the Democratic candidate and lambasting Bloomberg, were refocused on the former vice president, and then a funny thing happened.

In what was an obvious coincidence, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is expected to begin issuing subpoenas for an investigation into Ukrainian energy company Burisma and what role the now Democratic front-runner played in his son getting a seat on the company’s board of directors years back.

Hunter Biden, who is an attorney, resigned from the post in February 2019. Shortly thereafter, Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, began a pressure campaign to have the newly elected president of  Ukraine announce it was going to investigate the Bidens and their ties to the company.

Already investigated by the Ukrainian government and found not to be illegal, Trump employed a cast of characters that included the ambassador to the European Union, the ambassador to Ukraine, Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to conduct an additional investigation into Biden or possibly lose $400 million in military aid, which had been approved by Congress at the end of 2018.

The matter was at the heart of why Trump was ultimately impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Following the Biden win on Super Tuesday, Johnson magically revived the planned investigation, which had been discussed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and, of course, by President Trump.

Johnson plans to issue a subpoena for records of Andril Telizhenko, a former consultant for a firm tied to Burisma. Johnson alleges Telizhenko, who is tied to Giuliani and worked at the Ukrainian embassy in 2016 is willing to testify before the Senate about the potentially scurrilous actions of Hunter and Joe Biden.

This week, Johnson said the timing of the planned subpoenas is “coincidental,” and that he was simply waiting for the right time after matters came to light. With a probe, Johnson expects he could have a interim report of his findings ready in the coming months.

For one fleeting minute, the obvious political use of taxpayer dollars to investigate an opponent of the president drew the ire of sometimes Trump adversary Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Romney said the Johnson investigation into Biden appeared political and he thought the people were tired of such probes following the impeachment and multiple probes tied to the president, Russia and Ukraine. Romney, who is also a member of the Senate’s Homeland Security committee, fueled speculation that he may vote against issuing the subpoenas, which would cause the measure to fail.

Already castigated for voting to call witnesses in the Trump impeachment trial, Romney was dis-invited from this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which was held this week in Maryland. The former GOP presidential candidate had apparently already taken too much heat, as he ended all speculation yesterday by publicly announcing that he was now in favor of issuing the subpoenas despite public weariness for investigations into the matter.

A Romney spokesperson was quoted in a CNN piece stating the former Massachusetts governor spoke with Johnson about his concerns. The Romney spokesperson said interviews on the matter would be behind closed doors and he was expected to vote to allow Johnson to proceed.

Romney’s reversal would appear to give Johnson enough votes to proceed with the investigation into Biden and perhaps get him invited to the next Conservative shindig.

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