Liar, Liar Pants on Fire Edition
APPROVAL ALERT AT PRESS TIME:
FiveThirtyEight Poll: 40.2% — up from 40.1% last week
Rasmussen Poll: 45% — same as last week
Quinnipiac Poll 7/16/20 — Trump’s Handling of COVID — 62% Disapproval
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 Here, an infusion of social media, video clips and print media meld with our outdated political views to make more delicious “Fake News” about our Commander-in-Chief.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:
Burning Down the House
The week of our Trump — July 11, 2020: With exploding rates of coronavirus in red states like Florida, Texas, Arizona and Alabama, you would think our law-and-order president would be battling the problem with both guns drawn, our stockpile of ventilators and all of the scary virus testing we do better than anyone in the world.
But instead, this week President Donald J. Trump did what he does best: deny, lie and discredit science.
Going beyond his normal ambivalence on wearing a protective facial mask and not pushing for social distancing, the White House turned its guns on leading infectious expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and its own Center for Disease Control (CDC), for suggesting that the record-breaking spread of COVID-19 needs containment.
Both Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield gave Trump news he did not want to hear. The novel coronavirus is spreading like wildfire and will impact the reopening of the economy and schools in the fall. As they called for possible closings of several states and a measured reopening of school districts, Trump decided to shoot both messengers.
Attacks on Fauci began early in the week with White House staffers dispensing opposition research-style talking points against the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. On July 12, the White House distributed a list of past comments by Fauci that included his assertion back in January that coronavirus was not a serious threat and that it was not “driven by asymptomatic carriers.”
Such comments from Fauci came as he and other scientists learned more about the contagion as it hit the United States in February. Since the virus shut down the country in March, Fauci has consistently called for social distancing, more washing of hands, sheltering in place and ultimately the need to wear protective face coverings.
Despite his constant warnings, coronavirus has ravaged the country. Fauci and others on the White House Coronavirus Task Force have largely been at odds with the president’s message that calls for the reopening of business districts regardless of the the persistent spread of the virus.
Trump’s happy talk about defeating COVID-19 has morphed into attacks on his medical advisers in an effort to suppress scientific assessments of how to stop its spread.
For his part, Trump has denied the release of negative talking points aimed at Fauci and instead said he has “a very good relationship” with him.
Days later, after Fauci was praised as “a national treasure” by the nation’s largest paper, USA Today, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro penned an op-ed in the paper that criticized Fauci as “being wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
Attacking Fauci on everything from the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus to the mortality rate, the Trump’s adviser said: “So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution.”
The White House in this instance also denied any knowledge that Navarro wrote the piece that criticized its top doctor in the midst of a global pandemic.
However, such attacks seemed to backfire as no fewer than 41 states reported increases in infections, and the nation outside the New York tristate area collectively reported its highest daily total of infections with more than 70,000 in a day during the week.
Just yesterday, Florida, the new epicenter for the virus, reported 11,466 infections. Texas, the next hottest spot for coronavirus, reported 7,946 new infections. Overall, the United States remained number one in the world with 3.7 million total infections and 141,915 deaths tied to COVID-19.
Openly attacked by Trump, who lied about his involvement in the talking points or Navarro’s op-ed, Fauci also was criticized by one of the president’s celebrity supporters, former “Love Connections” host Chuck Woolery.
On the same day the talking points emerged from the White House, Woolery tweeted his criticism of Fauci, the media and the whole scientific community as it pertained to COVID-19. Woolery’s post was promptly retweeted by the president:
“Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”
Hours later, Woolery softened his stance after learning his son had tested positive for the virus, and in a later tweet said he felt for those suffering from COVID-19 and those who have lost loved ones. By July 15, following the Navarro op-ed, a number of celebrities were hacked on Twitter and Woolery’s entire Twitter account disappeared.
It was unclear if the hack was responsible for the former game show host’s vanishing Twitter account or if he deleted it himself. Trump admitted to sharing the post through a retweet but did not say if it reflected his specific thoughts.
Such was not the case with the CDC.
As part of another Woolery retweet, the president posted a quote from the former television star, which said that with “so much evidence, yes scientific evidence, that schools should open this fall.”
The quote, which was in line with Trump’s position on the fall reopening, differed from CDC guidelines earlier in the month that stated school districts may have to institute temporary dismissals if there was a substantial spread of the disease, and modification of classes where there was a “moderate community transmission” present.
The CDC went on to recommend modifying classes where students were in close contact, staggering arrival and dismissal times, and enforcing social-distancing.
The CDC guidelines were rebuffed by Trump, who also threatened to withhold federal funds to districts that did not fully reopen. The president believes measured reopenings are a not a safety measure but a political maneuver to hurt his bid for re-election.
This week, the White House also changed how hospitals report the number of infections caused by coronavirus, by having medical facilities no longer report data to the CDC, but instead send information directly to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Hospitals previously reported data to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network, which is the country’s premier infection tracking system. The federal agency tracks a range of vital information, including the number available beds, the number of available ventilators and how many novel coronavirus patients are currently in U.S. hospitals.
The HHS said the change in protocol will “streamline” data collection, but medical professionals are concerned the move is an attempt to suppress and massage coronavirus numbers for political reasons.
Redfield said the move will not take data or access to data away from the CDC, but will allow the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) to better focus on tracking the contagion in places like nursing homes, where reporting of cases has been dodgy.
Thomas File, Jr. president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America voiced concerns with the change:
“Placing medical data collection outside of the leadership of public health experts could severely weaken the quality and availability of data, add an additional burden to already overwhelmed hospitals and add a new challenge to the U.S. pandemic response.”
By the end of the week the White House had blocked Redfield from testifying before Congress on the reopening of schools:
“Dr. Redfield has testified on the Hill at least four times over the last three months. We need our doctors focused on the pandemic response.”
Redfield was expected to testify next week before the House Education and Labor Committees, but his testimony was blocked. The CDC has also delayed the release of its new recommendations for returning children to school during a growing pandemic.
Despite the efforts of the White House, in a surprise move, Fauci, who has not appeared at White House briefings in several weeks, held a one-on-one interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on July 16. During the hour-long interview Fauci answered questions about how to stem the spread of the disease and urged state and local governments to follow science and health guidelines.
The Secret Policeman Ball
It would seem impossible in a democracy, but it appears in another abuse of power, the Trump administration is sending federal authorities to harass and sometimes even detain peaceful protestors without the knowledge or approval of city leaders.
Evidence of such governmental overreach has been seen over the last week in Portland, Or., where reports suggest unidentified men in camouflage fatigues have been quelling demonstrators with tear gas and flash grenades, and in some cases, arresting people without charges during ongoing demonstrations against police brutality.
A spokesman for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the head of state is concerned about reports that federal officers acting under Trump’s direction are arresting and detaining people, and in doing so, violating their constitutional rights.
Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Brown, said federal law enforcement has been present in recent days, but no one has been communicating their intentions with state or local law enforcement authorities.
“Governor Brown has called for Trump’s federal officers to leave Portland and stay off our streets,” a statement from the governor read.
Demonstrators in Portland first took to the streets on May 25 after a trio of now former police officers in Minneapolis, Minn., restrained and ultimately killed George Floyd during a traffic stop. The act sent shock waves across the nation, with people protesting in memory of Floyd and joining with Black Lives Matter and other local organizations to call for an end to police brutality.
Daily boycotts in Portland have continued since Floyd’s murder and have been monitored in the nation’s capital. Men in military garb have been seen taking people into custody for unspecified crimes against federal agents and property.
In a statement Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said its agents were in a video where a protestor dressed in all black was taken into custody. According to The Washington Post, agents in the video said they “had information indicating the suspect was responsible for assaults against federal agents and destruction of federal property.” CBP officials told the newspaper that due to a “large and violent mob,” they moved the suspect to a “safer location for further questioning.”
CBP officials said their officers were not unidentifiable and that they had announced what agency they represent to the suspect. They said, however, that “the names of the agents were not displayed due to recent doxing incidents against law-enforcement personnel who serve and protect our country.”
Eyewitnesses to the intervention have complained that the “officers” wore fatigues and generic police patches while pursuing protestors from unmarked minivans. Protestors told the Washington Post they were unsure whether the mysterious men were police or far-right militia members.
Many protestors have described being tracked, detained and searched inside unmarked vehicles. One witness described being driven to the federal courthouse and placed in a holding cell. He told the Washington Post he was eventually released after being read his Miranda Rights, but was never charged with a crime or told why he had been detained.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, during a press conference yesterday, called out the federal police in his city and referred to them as “President Trump’s personal army.” Wheeler said he and other elected officials from Oregon want to send a clear message to Washington, D.C. that federal police were not invited and should leave Portland.
Wheeler said federal officers from the U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security have also been present on Portland streets over the last week.
The ACLU of Oregon filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland that seeks to prevent federal agents from “arresting, threatening to arrest or using physical force directed against any person whom they know or reasonably should know is a Journalist or Legal Observer.”
Kelly Simon, interim legal director with the ACLU of Oregon, said:
“Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorizing the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protestors demonstrating against police brutality.”
The day before, federal officers deployed tear gas and impact grenades to stop demonstrators from reaching the federal facilities. The area had been visited earlier in the day by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who said Portland had been under siege for 47 days and criticized local leaders for failing to stop “lawless anarchists.”
During an interview on Fox News yesterday, Wolf admitted Homeland Security agents were present in Portland:
“We have about 100 or so federal officers there to make sure that we support that courthouse, defend that courthouse.”
He later tweeted two DHS officer were assaulted in Portland with lasers and frozen water bottles from “violent criminals attempting to tear down federal property.”
The unwelcome federal presence was also noted by Democratic members of Congress including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Or.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“There should be an immediate investigation by the Inspectors General at the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security into this abomination.”
With confirmation from DHS, little has come from the White House on the issue except for the occasional and random tweet every couple of days stating only, “Law & Order.”
Criticized for using teargas to disperse crowds protesting in the nation’s capital in pursuit of a photo opportunity, Trump has only talked about his desire to use federal force in American cities by conjuring up past uses in Minneapolis and threatening to use it in Seattle.
Such was the case at the end of a rambling campaign style address in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, July 16, Trump told a captive audience that included Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and a small, socially distanced crowd sitting on folding chairs.
Initially hailing his administration’s focus on rolling back regulations from the previous administration, Dismal Donnie, standing before the backdrop of a red pickup truck, a blue pickup truck and a crane to symbolize the rollback, spun an incoherent tale about stopping left-wing Democrats from making the police subordinate to protestors:
“It’s about our country. We want to be strong and respect everybody, but we have to have strong law enforcement and it’s taking place in the areas we’re responsible for. We want others to call us for help, there’s nothing wrong with it. Let Chicago call; let Seattle call. We were all set to go into Seattle, all set to go and then they did it themselves – they heard we were coming in and the hands went up – they gave up.” It’s so terrible when you see what’s happening. In Minneapolis we said get the guard in there, three nights, get the guard in, get the guard and we got the guard in — the National Guard — they are doing a fantastic job as soon as they showed up it was like a knife cutting through butter.”
Not Worth a Hill of Beans
Smack dab in the middle of a battle against the invisible enemy, our wartime President opened up another can of beans, this time fighting those boycotting Goya Foods.
Headquartered in Secaucus, N.J., Goya was founded by Prudencio Unanue Ortiz, an immigrant of Spain and his wife, Carolina Casal in 1936. Recognized as the largest Hispanic/Latino-owned food company in the country, the bean people got into hot water with their constituents following a meeting with Trump last week.
During the July 9 roundtable discussion with Hispanic leaders at the White House to promote his “Hispanic Prosperity Initiative,” Trump signed an executive order to deliver educational and economic opportunity across all the federal government to Hispanics, along with better opportunities for members of the Latinx community to attend public/private charter schools.
Trump said the effort would also provide funds to bolster vocational education and increase employment opportunity zones for minorities.
The meeting was attended by Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, the first Hispanic female to hold the post, and various business and community leaders from the Latinx community including: Lourdes Aguirre, founder of Eres America and JEMICA Enterprise; Daniel Garza, president of the Libre Initiative; Mario Rodriguez, president of Hispanic 100; Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the Job Creators Network and Bob Unanue, CEO and president of Goya, the grandson of its founder.
In a room brimming with praise, Donnie Dipshit basked in the glow of over-the-top butt kissing that he has grown to expect, but it was Unanue’s backdoor smooch that pissed off countless Latinos and launched a boycott:
“Mr. President, what can I tell you? I’m so blessed to be here in the most prosperous country in the world, the greatest country in the world. And we’re so blessed to have you as our leader, as we continue to build this country and make it — continue to make it the most prosperous nation in the world.”
Not too bad when describing a guy who ran and won with an anti-immigration message that painted Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers and told Mexico it was going to build a wall to keep immigrants from invading America along the southwest border.
Unanue’s comments, touched off a full-fledged boycott against the firm from Twitter users under: “#Goyaway.”
The comments were also criticized by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Democratic presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Julian Castro, who suggested Latinos buy cultural food products elsewhere.
“@GoyaFoods has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations.,” Castro tweeted. “Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainizes and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain. Americans should think twice before buying their products.”
Later that week, evening “Goya, #BoycottGoya and #Goyaway” were trending topics on Twitter.
Tales of Latinos donating their Goya products and making their own “adobo,” flashed across the news media and many from the Latinx community pointed members of the community to other Latino-owned companies where they could find cultural products.
The boycott touched off a “buy-cott,” by White House aide/daughter-wife Ivanka Trump Kushner, who posed on Twitter hawking a can of Goya “Frijoles Negros” or black beans like some kind of game-show host model.
The company’s slogan: “If it’s Goya, it has to be good,” captioned the photo in both English and Spanish.
The photo got the attention of government ethics officials who said the Twitter post from Mrs. Kushner violated federal laws. According to Department of Justice rules, in the White House “an employee’s position or title should not be used to coerce; to endorse any product, service or enterprise.”
Because doubling-down is the law of the land in Trumplandia, Poppa Donnie Pop the next day trumped baby girl with a more excessive violation on Instagram.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), filed a complaint against Mrs. Kushner accusing her of violating ethics laws yesterday.
According to the lawsuit, Ivanka violated the Standards of Conduct policy that bars White House employees from using their position to sell or endorse products. The complaint calls for the Office of Government Ethics to investigate and consider disciplinary action against the first daughter.
“This is not just about beans; it’s another example of a disturbing pattern of this administration acting to benefit the businesses of the president’s supporters. In the midst of a worsening pandemic, senior administration officials should not be focused on the promotion of an ally’s business and should not be providing officials incentives for businesses to support them politically, said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder in a statement. “Senior Trump officials continue to act like ethics laws do not apply to them.”
The White House responded to the legal challenge, stating the post was on Mrs. Kushner’s personal account and therefore not illegal.
“As has been reiterated prior, this tweet was made in her personal capacity voicing her personal support,” said White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany. “This complaint is another politically motivated, baseless attack from an organization with a vendetta against all of this administration.”
The White House offered no comment on the president’s Instagram post, which hawked various Goya products from the Oval Office.