Month: October 2017

Top campaign officials knew of Trump adviser’s outreach to Russia

Top campaign officials knew of Trump adviser’s outreach to Russia

The Washington Post
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamberger

Several weeks after Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, his national campaign co-chairman urged a foreign policy adviser to meet with Russian officials to foster ties with that country’s government.

“Make the trip, if it is feasible,” Sam Clovis wrote in an August email to George Papadopoulos.

The email, included in court papers unsealed Monday, shows how an otherwise low-profile adviser has become a focus of the federal probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Papadopoulos was in contact with several senior Trump campaign aides about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the court papers show. In addition to Clovis, who now serves as senior White House adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Papadopoulos wrote to campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the newly released documents show.

Trump’s meltdown in anticipation of indictments is telling

Trump’s meltdown in anticipation of indictments is telling

The Washington Post
By Jennifer Rubin

President Trump and his surrogates — most especially the Fox News lineup (which includes a fleet of conservative pundits who disgrace themselves by facilitating a political distraction game for Trump), obsequious Republicans in Congress, old allies such as Roger Stone (who wound up getting banned by Twitter) and the talk radio crowd — have been frantically fanning Hillary Clinton non-scandals about Uranium One (it was baseless before and baseless now) and the dossier’s funder. (Fusion GPS initially was hired by the conservative Free Beacon, which at one time claimed not to know the identity of the Republican outfit that first hired Fusion.) The unhinged rants from Trump’s defenders demanding Clinton be locked up for one or both of these reveal how tightly Trump and the right-wing ecosystem that supports him rely on Clinton as an all-purpose distraction.

Upon a moment’s reflection, the non-scandals make no sense (Clinton was colluding with Russia to beat herself in the election?), have been debunked before and in no way affect the liability, if any, of current or ex-Trump administration figures. This is “whataboutism” run amok. It does expose the degree to which Fox News has given up the pretense of a real news organization, preferring the role of state propagandist. (And it’s not just the evening hosts; the non-scandals now monopolize the rest of the schedule.)

The intensity of Trump’s frenzy underscores the peril in which the president now finds himself. Beyond the indictments unsealed this morning, Trump does not know what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has uncovered; which witnesses are flippable; what financial documents have revealed about the Trump business empire; and whether, for example, Mueller finds support for an obstruction of justice charge from Trump’s own public dissembling (e.g., hinting at non-existent tapes of former FBI director James B. Comey). For someone who insists on holding all the cards and intimidating others, Trump finds himself in a uniquely powerless position.

It should surprise no one that congressional Republicans, who have demonstrated their spinelessness again and again, are silent.

What Trump did to Kelly shows how far we have fallen

What Trump did to Kelly shows how far we have fallen

The Washington Post
By E.J. Dionne Jr.

The United States is in the middle of a very unfortunate experiment in how disoriented a great nation can become before it loses its moorings entirely.

At times, politics seems fairly conventional with Republicans and Democrats arguing about health care and tax cuts, as they long have done. But former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama reminded us last week that there is nothing normal about this moment. They issued searing, overlapping condemnations of Trumpism without naming President Trump. Former commanders in chief of opposing parties don’t do this sort of thing unless the country faces an emergency.

Our disorientation is reflected further in the way honorable men and women allow themselves to be pushed into defending the indefensible and twisting noble concepts into cheap and ultimately shameful talking points. These are designed to get the president through one more news cycle or around some controversy he could easily quell if he had any familiarity with the words “I’m sorry.”

In the realm of political commentary, the now-daily detonations set off by a man who sees the common good as the pursuit of suckers drown out any serious discussion of the problems his voters thought he might try to solve.

The burden is especially great on those who hoped that by serving this man, they could serve their country. Alas, Kelly has shown us that this is simply not possible.

A turf war is tearing apart the Intel community’s watchdog office

A turf war is tearing apart the Intel community’s watchdog office

Foreign Policy
By Jenna McLaughlin
Image courtesy of Foreign Policy illustration/Getty Images

Dan Meyer and a team of employees from the U.S. intelligence community watchdog’s office were set to travel overseas to a contractor’s office where no government employee had yet visited. They were carrying posters, as well as red, white, and blue foam cubes emblazoned with the phrase “Be part of the solution” and the hotline number where whistleblowers could call in and report instances of waste, fraud, and abuse.

But the trip, planned for earlier this year, was ultimately canceled by his supervisors.

Meyer, whose job is to talk to intelligence community whistleblowers, can no longer talk to whistleblowers. He has been barred from communicating with whistleblowers, the main responsibility of his job as the executive director for intelligence community whistleblowing and source protection. He is currently working on an instructional pamphlet for whistleblowers, and he will have no duties to perform after he’s completed that work.

He can also no longer brief the agencies or the congressional committees on his work as he’s done in the past, send out his whistleblower newsletter, or conduct outreach. And he has no deputy or staff.

Foreign Policy spoke with eight sources with knowledge of the ongoing issues at the Intelligence Community Inspector General office, where Meyer works. The sidelining of Meyer, described to FP by several sources, is just one part of a larger problem with the office.

For attorneys who represent clients with pending cases in front of the inspector general, the office’s disarray is particularly disturbing.

Andrew Bakaj, who worked for several years at the CIA’s inspector general office and helped stand up the whistleblower programs at the Pentagon and in the intelligence community, says the destruction of the office is a matter of grave national security.

The cascade of missteps that turned one White House error into a messy week

The cascade of missteps that turned one White House error into a messy week

The Washington Post
By Philip Bump
Image courtesy of AP

Hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes foresight has a sharp focus, too.

It was fairly clear a week ago that the White House should have gotten out in front of questions about the deaths of four Special Forces soldiers earlier this month in Niger. The men had been killed on Oct. 4, but there had been almost no word from the White House. No explanation, no condolences — just brief comments from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders including a statement on Oct. 6 that, “We’re continuing to review and look into this.”

By Monday of this week, when President Trump decided to hold an impromptu news conference in the White House Rose Garden, the administration should have been ready for questions on the subject of the soldiers’ deaths. When a reporter raised it, Trump’s response didn’t suggest a great deal of preparation. Instead, he tried to one-up past presidents by claiming that he was going above-and-beyond in calling the families of the soldiers who had been killed.

Trump’s incorrect (and rapidly debunked) assertion that he was doing something that past presidents hadn’t was like dropping a snowball at the top of a mountain. As the week went on — and as Trump and his team kept making more and more mistakes and misstatements — the snowball grew and grew, consuming five days of media attention.

Trump gives his own performance a Trump-sized endorsement

Trump gives his own performance a Trump-sized endorsement

Politico
By Josh Dawsey
Image Courtesy of Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Friends say President Donald Trump has grown frustrated that his greatness is not widely understood, that his critics are fierce and on TV every morning, that his poll numbers are both low and “fake,” and that his White House is caricatured as adrift.

So on Monday, the consummate salesman — who has spent his life selling his business acumen, golf courses, sexual prowess, luxury properties and, above all, his last name — gave the Trump White House a Trump-sized dose of brand enhancement.
With both the Roosevelt Room and the Rose Garden as backdrops, he mixed facts and mirage, praise and perfidy in two head-spinning, sometimes contradictory performances designed to convince supporters and detractors alike that everything’s terrific, moving ahead of schedule and getting even better. His opponents were cast as misguided, deluded or even unpatriotic.

It was the latest instance of Trump bypassing his own communications staff to speak directly to the press, and the public, after weeks of blistering criticism and as White House aides struggle with the increasing possibility that they may end the year without accomplishing any of their grand legislative goals.

Senate Republicans, Trump said, had let him down and hurt his agenda.

“I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” the president said.

Inside the ‘adult day-care center’: How aides try to control and coerce Trump

Inside the ‘adult day-care center’: How aides try to control and coerce Trump

The Washington Post
By Ashley Parker and Greg Jaffe

During the campaign, when President Trump’s advisers wanted him to stop talking about a certain issue — such as when he attacked a Gold Star military family — they sometimes presented him with polls demonstrating how the controversy was harming his candidacy.

During the transition, when aides needed Trump to decide on a looming issue or appointment, they often limited him to a shortlist of two or three options and urged him to choose one.

And now in the White House, when advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.

When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) described the White House as “an adult day-care center” on Twitter last week, he gave voice to a certain Trumpian truth: The president is often impulsive, mercurial and difficult to manage, leading those around him to find creative ways to channel his energies.

Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants and outside advisers, most of whom insisted on anonymity to speak candidly.