Advertisement
60 posts
  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
President Trump and Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis attend a reception in October.
President Trump and Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis attend a reception in October. (Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford)

Who’s the real Mad Dog in the Trump administration?

While the rest of us were doing something holiday-ish — celebrating the fourth Sunday of Advent, perhaps, or watching the Rams give C.J. Anderson his career back, or bingeing on the Hallmark Channel — President Trump was terminating the employment of his Defense secretary, James N. “Mad Dog” Mattis, two months early in a belated fit of pique.

The president reportedly was irritated by the resignation letter Mattis submitted Thursday, which some in the punditocracy characterized as a “stinging rebuke” because it lays out a case for multinationalism. Or rather, he was irritated by the way the media, analysts and other politicians reacted to it, because (according to the New York Times) he had accepted the letter without reading it.

Advertisement
The president's fixation on illegal immigration obscures the nature of the problem - and the fixes.
The president's fixation on illegal immigration obscures the nature of the problem - and the fixes. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

When President Trump decreed that all asylum seekers must present themselves at a port of entry to have their application considered, he broke clear language in U.S. law that says people may present themselves anywhere along the border and request asylum.

Trump predictably got sued, and predictably tried to enforce that rule while the court cases proceed. And just as predictably, the courts told him no. And predictably again, rather than go through the regular appeals process, the president ran straight to the Supreme Court, which shot him down Friday without comment —  though by a narrowly divided 5-4 vote.

Meanwhile, President Shutdown is on the verge of furloughing a large portion of the federal government because Democrats in the Senate (wisely) refuse to vote for an omnibus spending bill that would include $5 billion to extend the wall and fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Advertisement
  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Special Counel Robert S. Mueller III is still on the job despite fears of a 'massacre.'
Special Counel Robert S. Mueller III is still on the job despite fears of a 'massacre.' (Associated Press)

Since virtually the day he was appointed  (May 17, 2017), special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been investigating on what many fear is borrowed time.  The concern that President Trump would enact his own version of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre by firing Mueller is constantly fed by Trump’s unhinged tweets about a “witch hunt.”

And don’t forget that, according to the New York Times, Trump actually asked then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to dismiss Mueller soon after Mueller was named to investigate possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

But Mueller is still here, and he has notched an impressive series of indictments and guilty pleas. But the Mueller Massacre Watch is on alert today because of two new developments.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
Outside the White House on Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) says President Trump won't sign the Senate's short-term funding bill.
Outside the White House on Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) says President Trump won't sign the Senate's short-term funding bill. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press/TNS)

Having proudly claimed responsibility for any government shutdown that should occur this month, President Trump now seems determined to force one. That’s some Christmas gift to more than 300,000 federal workers who may be temporarily furloughed (or forced to work without a timely paycheck, if their jobs are deemed “essential”).

According to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Trump informed top House Republicans on Thursday that he would not sign the short-term funding bill that the Senate passed Wednesday. That’s because the measure does not include the $5 billion Trump has sought for building a higher, more extensive wall along the southern border.

Funny, but the White House announced Tuesday that Trump did not want to shut down the government and would instead find other ways to fund the wall. Evidently, the blowback from far-right members of Congress and the pundit class persuaded Trump to make his stand on the end-of-year spending measure after all.

  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Michael Flynn leaves after the delay in his sentencing hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington.
Michael Flynn leaves after the delay in his sentencing hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan performed a public service Tuesday when he got former national security advisor Michael Flynn to acknowledge that he knew he was committing a crime when he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential transition.

In recent days, Flynn’s lawyers and some conservative commentators have pushed the idea that the FBI had taken advantage of Flynn by not warning him in advance that lying to agents would be a crime. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial with the over-the-top title “The Flynn Entrapment.”

Sullivan took a lot of air out of that theory at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing for the retired general.

Advertisement
  • Opinion
Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) speaks at a rally in Mesa, Ariz., with President Trump in October.
Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) speaks at a rally in Mesa, Ariz., with President Trump in October. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

Who knew that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was a feminist?

For today, at least, he is. By appointing outgoing Republican Rep. Martha McSally to the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Republican Jon Kyl (who had been appointed in September to fill the seat vacated when John McCain died), Ducey has increased the female representation from Arizona in the Senate by 100%.  

Good for him! McSally’s appointment also means that in a few short weeks, she will join Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate (which might be a tad uncomfortable, given that Sinema beat McSally on Nov. 6 after a brutal campaign for the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake).

  • Trump
  • Opinion
President Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13.
President Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

New York Atty. Gen. Barbara D. Underwood announced Tuesday that President Trump and his family had agreed to dissolve his charitable foundation, which the state alleges served as a piggy bank for Trump’s personal and campaign needs.

Naturally, this prompted a slate of stories rehashing the juiciest allegations in the state’s lawsuit, which will move forward. A personal favorite: The foundation gave $7 to the Boy Scouts of America in 1989, which the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold observed “matched the amount required to enroll a boy in the Scouts the year that [Trump’s] son Donald Trump Jr. was 11.”

Underwood summarized the allegations this way: “Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more.” Ouch. 

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Border Wars
The Trump administration is holding 15,000 minors in detention shelters like this one in Tornillo, Texas, near El Paso.
The Trump administration is holding 15,000 minors in detention shelters like this one in Tornillo, Texas, near El Paso. (Christopher Smith / Department of Health and Human Services)

The recent death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl in Border Patrol custody was tragic, and I hope the inspector general’s investigation into what happened is both comprehensive and fast. Especially since the father of Jakelin Caal Maquin disputes some basic elements of the Border Patrol’s version of events.

But the death also spotlights the broader issue of the U.S. government making prisoners of migrant children in astonishing numbers. As of last week, the government was holding 15,000 minors – mostly teenage boys – in various detention centers around the country.

Let that sink in: The U.S. government is jailing children who, in most cases, arrived at the southwest border seeking asylum. Do they all qualify for sanctuary? Probably not, but we have a system for making such decisions, and at the moment, that system is imprisoning an entire village’s worth of minors.

Advertisement
  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
Ryan Zinke's overdue departure from the Interior department could leave an even wilier fox in charge of that particular henhouse.
Ryan Zinke's overdue departure from the Interior department could leave an even wilier fox in charge of that particular henhouse. (Michael Reynolds / EPA-EFE/REX)

The announced departure of Ryan Zinke as Interior secretary was both expected and overdue – even in this scandal-plagued administration, Zinke stood out as the object of at least 17 investigations (several of which closed without finding fault), and whose involvement in a real estate project in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., has been referred to federal prosecutors. And with Democrats taking over the House next month, Zinke was sure to face some serious grilling time in committee hearings.

Then there are Zinke’s atrocious environmental policies, in which he has happily done President Trump’s bidding in trying to open as much federal land to oil and gas drilling and other extractive industries as quickly as the administration can. He also led the charge in shrinking the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, among others — actions that environmental groups have challenged in court.

So good riddance, for the sake of both ethics and the environment.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The Republican Party can count another notable defection this week: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who told reporters this week that she decided to dump her affiliation with the GOP after the Brett M. Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. She reregistered as having no party preference.

This was news to me in part because I didn’t realize Cantil-Sakauye was a Republican, though I knew she had been appointed by one, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, I never gave much thought about her political affiliation, which is exactly what you want in a chief justice.

I can’t believe the Republican Party wants to chase away smart people, especially women. But as long as the party’s leadership continues to cover for the toxic president, more are likely to leave. (If this were a novel, it would soon be revealed that the Trump presidency was an elaborate plot cooked up by foreign agents in order to destroy the Republican Party from within.)