As some of my readers may remember, I declared on Monday that this was the worst week for Trump since he had taken office. That was on Monday. Thursday, the week just got even worse. A slew of stories dropped across several different outlets, just as Trump himself was set to take a 17 day vacation after a brief stop in West Virginia for another of his public therapy sessions.
To recap, on Monday John Kelley took his position as Chief of Staff and his first action was to fire Scaramucci, who had shown himself in the previous 10 days to be wholly inept and possibly mentally deficient. Rasmussen, a right leaning poll, dropped their latest report showing Trump with 61% disapproval. At the same time, two pieces were published; one from Jeff Flake and the other from Ken Buck, both Republicans. They each made a case for the Republican Party in Washington to abandon Trump and possibly move toward action against him. Additionally, it was reported that Trump himself dictated the release from Trump Jr. about his meeting (along with Manafort, Kushner, and a few other people) with a Russian lawyer on the promise of dirt about Clinton, though they ended up talking about the Magnitsky Act and Russian sanctions in response. This, of course, put Trump in potential legal trouble as he is now involved – directly – in the coverup of what is ostensibly solicitation to collude.
On Thursday, however, more news dropped. Where do we even begin? Well, let’s start with things specifically related to Washington and the political. According to The Hill, the Senate has moved to block Trump’s ability to make a recess appointment to fire and replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. The Senate will continue with its usual August recess, but they will hold nine pro-forma sessions during the recess. What this means is that even though the Senate is in a de facto recess, that is everyone gets to go home, they are still technically in session. What is likely to occur is that a single Republican, being a member of the majority party, will show up and hang out for an hour or two, and then go back home. This prevents Trump from making any recess appointments.
This isn’t a new trick for the Senate, either. The Senate has, over the last several decades, used this trick quite frequently under both Democratic and Republican presidents as a way to force them to behave.
Another headache for Trump in his official capacity is that the Secret Service and the Trump Organization, which owns and runs Trump Tower in New York, have reached an impasse on leasing space. It remains unclear which side of the disagreement is to blame, but the short of it is that if Trump wishes to return to his home, which he clearly prefers to the “dump” that is the White House, he will not have Secret Service protection while there. This, again, forces him to do things that he may not want to do, such as actually work – even as he goes on vacation at another of his own properties at the expense of the American taxpayer.
And then there is the news that came the day before; Trump signed the Russia Sanctions bill, which ties his hands on unilaterally lifting sanctions against Russia. Trump signed the bill reluctantly, and made it clear in his statement that he does not think that the American people should have any say in negotiations with a foreign power, hostile or otherwise, despite his repeated instance during the campaign that this was the precise problem in all other international agreements.
In typical Trumpian fashion, he mentioned how wealthy he is and concluded that this gives him superior powers, as if multiple failed businesses, five bankruptcies, and several lawsuits for fraud mean he is not only somehow good at business, but the bigliest best at international treaties.
In another political blow to Trump, a Quinnipiac poll showed that his approval has fallen even further. Additionally, the poll showed that 80% of voters disapprove of Republican’s handling of healthcare. This poll included 60% of self identified Republicans. Nearly no one likes the idea of cutting Medicaid and a plurality of people want to see no repeal at all, in whole or in part. Further, a slim majority, 51% want to see the United States move to a single payer system not unlike nearly every other rich, western democracy.
Turning to things related to the growing Russia scandal and the investigation around it, it was reported that Mueller has begun to create a Grand Jury in Federal Court. This is big news even though we, as yet, don’t really know what the Grand Jury is for.
A Grand Jury is not something that is created for show. Grand Juries have immense power as it relates to a criminal investigation. They have the power to issue subpoenas and hand down indictments. So, what is this Grand Jury going to do? Well, we don’t know yet. But, we can put together some clues and begin to speculate.
We know that there is already a Grand Jury in the Michael Flynn investigation. It seems unlikely that Mueller would dissolve or abandon that Grand Jury just to create a new one a few miles away in a different physical location. It is more likely that this Grand Jury is looking into someone else, and their possible criminal activity. Is it Trump? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s likely that it is people around Trump, though.
For instance, it was reported that Carter Page, former Trump adviser, has been the subject of a FISA warrant since 2014, two years earlier than was previously thought. Page has been linked to Russian financial interests, and his actions on behalf of the Russian government have been investigated under the possibility that he was in fact a Russian agent. Whether or not Trump was aware that Page may have been an agent of the Russian government is unclear, and frankly it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Trump was unaware. He seems shockingly unaware of most things that go on around him. Nevertheless, at least one of his advisers has been under investigation for being a foreign agent since at least a year before he joined the Trump campaign.
Similarly, Paul Manafort, who took over as campaign manager after Corey Lewandowski and before Kellyanne Conway, has been linked in multiple ways to the Kremlin. Manafort worked for pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister Yanukovych before he was ousted and ran off to Moscow. That series of actions culminated in the Russian annexation of Crimea. It has been suggested, if not outright shown, that Manafort was not only on the Ukrainian government payroll but also collected payments from Moscow for his efforts.
It was also reported yesterday that U.S. Intelligence operations had intercepted numerous communications between Manafort and Russian operatives while Manafort was leading the Trump campaign.
It was also reported that subpoenas were issued related to the meeting between Jr. and the Russian lawyer. While it is too early to tell what these subpoenas are looking to turn up, it is possible that the closed-door sessions between Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner to Congress turned up some inconsistencies between what was said and what was known. While all of these sessions do not constitute actual testimony, as there was no oath taken, it is still a crime to lie to Congress. It wouldn’t be perjury per se, but it would be enough to warrant further suspicion and a closer look from federal investigators, as well as an indictment if it can be shown that any one of them lied.
At the same time, more subpoenas were issued toward Kushner’s family business, which came under fire for apparently attempting to use Kushner’s proximity to the White House to guarantee visas and green cards for business investors who invested in Kushner’s businesses. While I’m not typically one to use the sins of the father to condemn the son, it should be noted that Kushner’s father remains in federal prison for financial crimes. That case, for what it’s worth, was prosecuted by Chris Christie (Now it makes sense that he was used and tossed aside, yeah?).
All of this, while it was also reported that Mueller’s investigation crossed Trump’s so-called red line into investigating financial crimes by Trump himself. Some of these include Trump’s loans from Russian banks, his acceptance of investments from Russian oligarchs, his sales to operatives tied to the Kremlin for properties that were sold for millions more than the worth of the properties, sight unseen and never used, before the property was liquidated.
It’s long been an open secret that American banks will not loan Trump money because he handles it poorly, declares bankruptcy, and stiffs his contractors. Trump himself, as well as his children, have said for years that most of their money comes from Russian banks and investors. It was reported last year that there is an email server in the basement of Trump Tower that communicates almost exclusively with Alpha Bank, a Russian bank under the control of the wealthiest of the Russian classes. Again, this information was collected under FISA warrants.
Perhaps this is what Trump was referring to earlier this year when he claimed that he had been tapped? What Trump didn’t understand, and possibly still doesn’t, is that if he was “tapped” it was because he was communicating with people that were deemed to be enemy operatives and their communication – with Trump or otherwise – was being scooped up.
Further still, it was reported by Vox that top officials at the FBI itself may be considered witnesses in any potential case against Trump. It seems that even though Trump took great pains to make sure that his pressure on Comey was done in secret, that he failed to take into account that the FBI documents everything. As such, all of Trump’s meetings with Comey are part of the record – when they took place, what was said, and what the agency did or did not do in response.
That’s a lot to consider, and a lot to drop on one day. I don’t think that Trump actually has earned or deserves his vacation so soon into his term in the White House. It has barely been six months since he took the oath of office, which I contend that he never meant to honor. Nonetheless, it might be in his best interests, and surely the best interests for the rest of the country and the world, if he never came back from this vacation.
Image credit: AP