Archive for the ‘Trump administration’ Category
Adam Gopnik writes in the New Yorker:
Suddenly, Trump Derangement Syndrome is a thing, or is trying to become one.
We’re told by many wise and well-meaning people that it is a huge and even fatal mistake for liberals (and for constitutional conservatives) to respond negatively to every Trump initiative, every Trump policy, and every Trump idea. There are bound to be—in an Administration staffed not by orcs and ogres but for the most part by the usual run of military people and professional politicians—acceptable actions, even admirable initiatives, and we would do ourselves and our country a huge disservice by simply responding to them all with the same reflexive hatred. This may be especially true if that reflexive hatred, however unconsciously, mirrors and mimics the reflexive hatreds of the Trump White House itself. We owe it to our country and to our sanity to go on a case-by-case basis, empirically evaluating each action as it takes place, and refusing to succumb to the urge to turn politics into a series of set responses—exactly the habit, after all, that we so often deplore in Trump and the people around him.
This is a perfectly reasonable assertion, and one that would count for a lot in pretty much any semi-normal circumstance. The problem is that it refuses to see, or to entirely register, the actual nature of Trump and his actions. Our problem is not Trump Derangement Syndrome; our problem is Deranged Trump Self-Delusion. This is the habit of willfully substituting, as a motive for Trump’s latest action, a conventional political or geostrategic ambition, rather than recognizing the action as the daily spasm of narcissistic gratification and episodic vanity that it truly is.
The bombing of Syria, for instance, was not a sudden lurch either in the direction of liberal interventionism, à la Bill Clinton in the lands that were once Yugoslavia, nor was it a sudden reassertion of a neo-con version of American power, à la both Bushes in Iraq. It was, as best as anyone can understand, simply a reaction to an image, turned into a self-obsessed lashing out that involved the lives and deaths of many people. It was a detached gesture, unconnected to anything resembling a sequence of other actions, much less an ideology. Nothing followed from it, and no “doctrine” or even a single speech justified it. There is no credible evidence that Trump’s humanity was outraged by the act of poisoning children, only that Trump’s vanity was wounded by the seeming insult to America and, by extension, to him. It may be perfectly true that the failure of the Obama Administration to act sooner in Syria will go down forever, in the historical ledgers, as a reproach against it; or it may be that the wisdom of the Obama Administration in not getting engaged in another futile Middle Eastern folly will go down in its favor. But it is self-deluding to think that Trump’s action was meant to be in any way remedial. It was purely ritual, and the ritual acted out was the interminable Trumpist ritual of lashing out at those who fail to submit, the ritual act of someone whose inner accounting is conducted exclusively in terms of wounds given, worship received, and winnings displayed. (Perhaps his elder daughter, Ivanka, did play some small part in the action, as her brother Eric suggested in an interview, but this is hardly a comfort; the politics of a mad king with a court are no more reassuring than those of a mad king alone.)
Similarly, the current revival of a repeal-and-replace plan for Obamacare is clearly empty of all value, in its promoter’s mind, save that of publicity. It was painfully, absurdly apparent, in the last go-around, that Trump had no idea what Obamacare actually consists of or how it works, or what the Republican replacement bill did or how it worked, or, indeed, how medical insurance works in the first place and what exactly is involved in providing it. (The very rich are different from you and me; they have other people filling out forms for them.) The claim, made in the campaign, that he would supply universal insurance at a low cost, even to those with preëxisting conditions, didn’t even rise to the level of wishful thinking. Wishful thinking involves thought. Instead, it was, as with the Duke and Dauphin in “Huckleberry Finn,” a way of mouthing words that might placate a crowd or assert his own magical powers. It was simply an episode in a game show in which someone (always Trump) had to win and someone else (anyone who won’t submit to him) had to lose. Even to call this zero-sum thinking is to flatter it as thought. . .
Nikita Vladimirov reports in The Hill:
No member of Congress who represents districts on the U.S.-Mexico border support funding President Trump’s signature border wall, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
According to a survey conducted by the publication, no lawmaker representing the region expressed support for Trump’s request for $1.4 billion to begin construction of the project.
The survey included nine members of the House and eight senators from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California — including four Republican senators.
According to the report, some GOP lawmakers raised concerns about whether the wall is too focused on a physical barrier, rather than funding other high-tech solutions that could prove to be more effective. . .
Secret courts making secret decisions regarding secret laws is in my mind strongly associated with totalitarian regimes, which do not want the public to know what the government is up to. But that’s what we have in the FISA court. Alex Emmons reports in The Intercept:
In her first appearance representing the American public before the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2015, Amy Jeffress argued that the FBI is violating the Fourth Amendment by giving agents “virtually unrestricted” access to data from one of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs, which includes an untold amount of communications involving innocent Americans.
The NSA harvests data from major Internet companies like Facebook, Google and Apple without a warrant, because it is ostensibly “targeting” only foreigners. But the surveillance program sweeps up a large number of Americans’ communications as well. Then vast amounts of data from the program, including the Americans’ communications, are entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer at the 2015 hearing described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.”
The FBI routinely searches this database during ordinary criminal investigations — which gives them access to Americans’ communications without a warrant.
Jeffress, a former federal prosecutor now serving as an independent “friend of the court,” expressed frustration over the casualness with which the FBI is allowed to look through the data. “There need be no connection to foreign intelligence or national security, and that is the purpose of the collection,” she told Thomas Hogan, then the chief judge of the court. “So they’re overstepping, really, the purpose for which the information is collected.”
The FISA Court has been widely criticized for its secrecy, its extreme tendency to defer to the government, and the fact that until recently it only heard the government’s side of the case. In 2015, Congress passed a law establishing the position of “amicus curiae” to represent the interests of the public and civil liberties, and Jeffress is one of five amici now serving.
Jeffress, who is now a partner at the law firm Arnold and Porter, declined an interview request, citing the sensitivity of the FISA Court’s proceedings.
The NSA program in question, called PRISM, operates under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is scheduled to sunset in December unless it is reauthorized by Congress. What critics call the FBI’s “backdoor search loophole” is likely to be a major topic of debate in the coming months. Section 702 also authorizes a program called “Upstream,” which grabs massive amounts of data off major Internet backbones inside the U.S. without a warrant — again, because it is ostensibly “targeting” foreign communications.
The FBI’s backdoor searches are so controversial that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed measures in 2014 and 2015 requiring agents to get a warrant before conducting them, although the Senate refused to take up either proposal.
“Section 702 backdoor searches of Americans’ private communications are plainly unconstitutional, and the FBI’s warrantless searches are especially troubling,” said Ashley Gorski, a staff attorney with the ACLU.
The CIA and even the NSA itself have imposed a requirement that each query they run on 702 data involving a U.S. person be supported by a statement of facts that explains why the information being sought is relevant to foreign intelligence – as the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended in 2014.
But when Hogan asked if the FBI were willing to do the same thing, the lawyer representing the Department of Justice at the hearing – whose name the government redacted in the transcript – brushed him off.
The lawyer said that searches of the FBI’s “lawfully acquired data” are so common that requiring agents to document them would be impractical, and even dangerous.
“If we require our agents to write a full justification every time — think about if you wrote a full justification every time you used Google. Among other things, you would use Google a lot less,” the Justice Department attorney said. “We want the FBI to look and connect the dots in its lawfully acquired information.” . . .
That’s what Trump said then. Here’s what Trump says now:
Poor Donald Trump. He thought everyone would understand that he didn’t mean a single one of his many promises, and the media are so mean to remind people of what he promised. Poor little boy.
UPDATE: This seems to be a typical Trump pattern. Joe Uchill reports in The Hill:
President Trump faces a Thursday deadline to release a report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election — one he appears unlikely to meet.
Trump made the promise in January while swatting down reports about a dossier that allegedly suggested connections between his campaign and Russia.
“My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!” he announced in a January tweet
But it appears that little work has taken place within the administration to produce the report.
Emails from The Hill to the National Security Council and the Department of Justice were not immediately returned on Thursday.
Separately, a spokesperson for the National Security Council denied to Politico any involvement in a new report, as did Rudy Giuliani — who is advising Trump on private sector cybersecurity issues. Politico reported that the White House would not answer questions about the report directly.
Democrats are starting to criticize Trump over the report.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a written statement it was “deeply distressing” that the president would “not only miss this deadline, but that the work has not even begun.”
“After castigating his predecessor for not sufficiently prioritizing the cyber threat, the President’s failure to demonstrate any sense of urgency on the matter is all the more inexplicable,” wrote Schiff.
If a report is not released on Thursday, it will be the second cybersecurity item on the Trump agenda that has failed to come to fruition. . .
Haley Tsukayama reports in the Washington Post:
Bose knows what you’re listening to.
At least that’s the claim of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed late Tuesday in Illinois that accuses the high-end audio equipment maker of spying on its users and selling information about their listening habits without permission.
The main plaintiff in the case is Kyle Zak, who bought a $350 pair of wireless Bose headphones last month. He registered the headphones, giving the company his name and email address, as well as the headphone serial number. And he download the Bose Connect app, which the company said would make the headphones more useful by adding functions such as the ability to customize the level of noise cancellation in the headphones.
But it turns out the app was also telling Bose a lot more about Zak than he bargained for.
Defendant programmed its Bose Connect app to continuously record the contents of the electronic communications that users send to their Bose Wireless Products from their smartphones, including the names of the music and audio tracks they select to play along with the corresponding artist and album information, together with the Bose Wireless Product’s serial numbers (collectively, “Media Information”).
Combined with the registration information, that gave Bose access to personally identifiable information that Zak and other never agreed to share, the complaint says. Listening data can be very personal, particularly if users are listening to podcasts or other audio files that could shade in information about their political preferences, health conditions or other interests, the complaint argues.
The filing also alleges that Bose wasn’t just collecting the information. It was also sharing it with a data mining company called Segment.io, according to research conducted by Edelson, the Chicago-based law firm representing Zak.
Bose did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.
Wireless headphones are part of a growing category of connected devices, in which everyday products can hook up to the Internet and pass information from users to companies. . .
Jennifer Rubin, a conservative Republican who writes a column at the Washington Post, excoriates the ethical cesspool that is the Trump administration. She writes:
President Trump’s ethical sloth and financial conflicts of interest are unique in American history. (The Harding and Grant administrations were rife with corruption, but the presidents did not personally profit. Richard Nixon abused power but did not use his office to fatten his coffers or receive help from a hostile foreign power to get elected.) But it keeps getting worse.
Ryan Lizza’s stunning report reveals ample evidence that Trump misused the intelligence community and manipulated Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to concoct a plot meant to distract from the investigation into his Russian ties:
It is now clear that the scandal was not [former national security adviser Susan] Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coordinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided “no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”
I spoke to two intelligence sources, one who read the entire binder of intercepts and one who was briefed on their contents. “There’s absolutely nothing there,” one source said. The Trump names remain masked in the documents, and Rice would not have been able to know in all cases that she was asking the N.S.A. to unmask the names of Trump officials.
If true, this would be a clear abuse of authority — the very type of politicization of intelligence that the Trump team claims the Obama administration was guilty of. Had President Barack Obama done anything remotely similar, Republicans would have drafted articles of impeachment. Moreover, Trump’s antics have done serious damage to our national security toolkit:
The fallout from Trump’s [March 4] tweet could have grave consequences for national security. The law governing the N.S.A.’s collection of the content of communications of foreign targets is up for renewal this summer. Known as Section 702, part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it is perhaps the most important intelligence tool that America’s spy agencies have to gather information about potential terrorist attacks and about the intentions of regimes around the world. There are legitimate privacy concerns about allowing the N.S.A. to vacuum up such an enormous amount of communications. … Some American intelligence officials are now concerned that Trump and Nunes’s wild claims about intercepts and Rice have made Section 702 look like a rogue program that can be easily abused for political purposes.
Trump, the individuals who assisted in this gambit and Nunes have abused the public trust. They utterly failed to uphold their responsibility for national security, for maintaining public confidence in our intelligence community and for protecting legitimate privacy interests. (Rice has a darned good case for defamation, which of course she won’t pursue.)
On the financial side of the Trump sewer, matters are going from bad to worse. Trump never divested himself of his business holdings or released his tax returns. The extent of his conflicts of interest are therefore unknown. He has now amended the trust (showing how flimsy it is if it can be altered on a whim) to allow him to withdraw funds and to receive periodic briefings from his son Eric (who “can do that as chair of the trust’s advisory board, and told Forbes magazine last month that he plans to give his father big-picture financial briefings every quarter or so”). All this should underscore how ludicrous it is to claim separation between Trump and his business operations.
Now, the sludge has engulfed Ivanka Trump. The Associated Press reports:
On April 6, Ivanka Trump’s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago, her father’s Florida resort.
The scenario underscores how difficult it is for Trump, who has tried to distance herself from the brand that bears her name, to separate business from politics in her new position at the White House.
That’s putting it mildly. As a federal employee, Ivanka Trump has an obligation under a criminal statute (18 U.S.C. § 208) to avoid “participating personally and substantially, in an official capacity, in any ‘particular matter’ that would have a direct and predictable effect on the employee’s own financial interests or on the financial interests.” As the government ethics guidelines specify:
Moreover, disqualification is often the appropriate way to prevent a conflict of interest in the long term, unless an “exemption” applies or the circumstances warrant use of other means of resolving conflicts of interest. …
An executive branch-wide regulation recognizes that a reasonable person may believe that an employee’s impartiality can be influenced by interests other than the employee’s own or those that are imputed to the employee by the conflict of interest laws. Under 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502, employees are required to consider whether their impartiality would be questioned whenever their involvement in a “particular matter involving specific parties” might affect certain personal or business relationships.
This is hardly an isolated event for Ivanka Trump. Recall that as she was working on a clothing deal with a Japanese apparel giant — whose parent company’s largest shareholder is wholly owned by the Japanese government — she was sitting in a transition meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
What is striking is the degree to which
It’s interesting that Jason Chaffetz has formalized his refusal to do his Congressional job of oversight by declaring yesterday that he will not run for re-election.
This is from 9 years ago, but was featured this morning in a post by Tim Carmody at Kottke.org, who has more to say about it (and more good (that is, well worth watching) clips by Jay Smooth) at the link. Still good advice, still worth watching:
And, speaking of racism, the conservatives who vociferously complained about Obama’s playing golf from time to time are silent as President Trump plays golf almost every weekend. Apparently, the complaints were not about golf per se, but about a black person playing golf. Shawn King pointed that out in his column “Conservatives don’t hate a golfing President, but they hated an uppity Negro golfing President“:
No President in American history has ever golfed more per week than Donald Trump. In his first 12 weeks in office Trump took a staggering 18 golf course trips. That’s unheard of. In his first 12 weeks in office, President Obama didn’t visit a single golf course. By the end of this year, it’s likely that Trump will have golfed more than President Obama has in his entire presidency.
And that’s strange. It’s really strange. Because Donald Trump and other conservative pundits seemed to be deeply bothered by the times President Obama went out and golfed. It appeared to genuinely offend them. They obsessed over it.
Throughout the campaign, Trump frequently riffed on how much Obama golfed and pledged, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” The crowd ate it up.
Throughout the Obama administration, any time President Obama golfed, some famous conservative pundit chimed in. It was a reliable punchline that consistently got a rise out of their base.
In 2013 Sean Hannity tweeted, “Glad our arrogant Pres. is enjoying his taxpayer funded golf outing after announcing the US should take military action against Syria.”
Just a few months earlier, Newt Gingrich tweeted (his misspellings not mine), “Trump and president obsma both golf but trump doesn’t charge the taxpayers $920,000 for a golf weekend in florida.”
Neither of those tweets have aged well. Now it is Trump enjoying his taxpayer-funded golf outings after announcing military actions all over the world, including Syria. Now it’s Trump charging the taxpayers not $920,000 per golf outing in Florida, but reportedly much more.
Suddenly, the costs of golfing don’t seem to offend Trump or Newt or Hannity anymore. And I sincerely, genuinely don’t think the problem is political. It’s racial.
More than ever, it’s clear that conservatives never really had a problem with a golfing President, what they hated seeing was a black golfing President. I also think this was the subconscious message that Trump was pulling on throughout the campaign trail to his almost exclusively white audiences.
The racist caricature of the “uppity negro” has deep roots in this country. Uppity negroes have irritated white folk for over a hundred years. In its most simple form, the uppity negro is a black man or woman who enjoys anything other than working from sunup to sundown. Particularly, an uppity negro is a black man or woman who enjoys creature comforts in life that some whites may not yet be able to afford to enjoy — say a musical, a play, fine dining, or, you guessed it, a round of golf.
It’s why referencing Obama golfing got such a rise out of white, working-class crowds. It was a coded way to say, “How dare that uppity negro golf and enjoy leisure time while we work hard to make this country what it truly is?” Of course, . . .