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Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 16

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

Washington Post - Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump's decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

Related: Vox - Donald Trump is a serious threat to American national security

The latest Trump interview once again reveals appalling ignorance and dishonesty

As America continues to ponder whether President Donald Trump is obstructing justice by firing his FBI director in order to stymie an ongoing inquiry into his team's various bizarre links to the Russian government, the Economist delivered an interview with the chief executive that reminds us of the original and most basic horror of the Trump administration: The president of the United States has no idea what he's talking about.

And while Trump's own answers are so bizarre and meandering that it seems overwhelmingly likely he is speaking nonsense out of ignorance rather than rank dishonesty, the performance of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as his squire in the interview is disturbing on an entirely different level. Much as Trump has turned the political appointees at the Justice Department into facilitators of his lies about Jim Comey, Mnuchin acts as an enabler rather than a provider of adult supervision.

The sheer volume of things that Trump says over the course of the interview is mind-boggling, and practically beyond counting. At times he appears to be willfully lying in pursuit of some political agenda, or at least repeating a half-remembered partisan talking point.
It's hard to know what to say about this beyond the obvious: Regardless of the topic, the president has basically no idea what's going on. And his staff has given up on trying to bring him up to speed. Instead, they take advantage of his ignorance to try to sell him on selective misinformation -- or flattery from foreign leaders -- to park policy outcomes where they would like to see them.

National Post - White House advisors called Ottawa to urge Trudeau to help talk Trump down from scrapping NAFTA

White House staff called the Prime Minister's Office last month to urge Justin Trudeau to persuade President Donald Trump not to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to multiple Canadian government sources.

The unconventional diplomatic manoeuvre -- approaching the head of a foreign government to influence your own boss -- proved decisive, as Trump thereafter abandoned his threat to pull out of NAFTA unilaterally, citing the arguments made by Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as pivotal.

But the incident highlights the difficulties faced by governments all over the world when it comes to dealing with a president as volatile as Trump.

NBC News - Trump Establishes Vote Fraud Commission

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday creating a commission aimed at investigating alleged vote fraud -- a move that drew swift rebuke from civil liberty groups and liberal lawmakers amid worries the panel's work could seek to justify voter suppression.
"This voter commission is a clear front for constricting the access to vote to poor Americans, older Americans, and -- above all -- African Americans and Latinos," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "Putting an extremist like Mr. Kobach at the helm of this commission is akin to putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.
Last week, the Brennan Center for Justice said it studied jurisdictions accounting for 23.5 million votes in the 2016 election, and those jurisdictions reported an estimated 30 instances of suspected non-citizens voting. That equates to non-citizen voting in the 2016 election accounting for 0.0001 percent of the vote in these jurisdictions.

The Atlantic - Trump Wants 'Goddamned Steam,' Not Digital Catapults on Aircraft Carriers: "You have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out."

Navy officials were "blindsided" on Thursday, a spokesman told me, by President Donald Trump's suggestion that he has convinced the Navy to abandon a long-planned digital launching system in favor of steam on its newest aircraft carrier.

In a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine, Trump described his disgust with the catapult system known as Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, nicknamed EMALS, aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford. (Time has published only excerpts from the interview, not a full transcript.) The president described wanting to scrap EMALS, a key technological upgrade at the center of the multibillion-dollar carrier project, and return to steam.

Despite some high-profile failures in early testing, EMALS is now nearly complete and ready for sea trials. It represents one of three major initiatives in the Navy's push to go upgrade its weapons systems for the digital era.

Trump's insistence on steam is perhaps bewildering, but also consistent with some of his other views about technology. After all, the president has repeatedly talked about returning to America's golden age of manufacturing--an idea that's laughable, if regrettable, to anyone who has looked closely at the forces driving the global economy.

Related: Foxtrot Alpha - Trump May Have Just Derailed A Crucial Part Of America's Future Aircraft Carrier Fleet

NPR - Sessions Tells Prosecutors To Seek 'Most Serious' Charges, Stricter Sentences

In a memo to staff, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" -- a move that marks a significant reversal of Obama-era policies on low-level drug crimes.

The two-page memo, which was publicly released Friday, lays out a policy of strict enforcement that rolls back the comparatively lenient stance established by Eric Holder, one of Sessions' predecessors under President Barack Obama.

"This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety," Michael Collins, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement emailed to NPR. "Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war."
The memo also drew a long, scathing rebuke from Holder himself.

"The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime," he said in a statement. "It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety."

Vox - The Trump administration just took its first big step to escalate the war on drugs: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is encouraging federal prosecutors to lock up low-level drug offenders.

Trump and Sessions's "tough on crime" push defies some of the evidence we've seen over the past few years, which has found that tougher criminal justice policies aren't very effective.
Although it was never a big part of Obama's campaigns or speeches, his administration did take a number of steps to pull back the war on drugs. ... It shifted anti-drug spending to emphasize public health programs, like drug treatment, as much as approaches focused on criminal justice and national security.
All of this had the support of experts and the public, who widely see a public health approach as the right way to deal with drug problems like the opioid epidemic.
Based on Sessions's latest memo, this rhetoric, along with executive actions to match it, is what we can expect from the Trump administration over the next few years. The war on drugs may soon come roaring back.

Nature - Revamped 'anti-science' education bills in United States find success: Legislation urges educators to 'teach the controversy' and allows citizens to challenge curricula.

State and local legislatures in the United States are experimenting with new ways to target the topics taught in science classes, and it seems to be paying dividends. Florida's legislature approved a bill on 5 May that would enable residents to challenge what educators teach students. And two other states have already approved non-binding legislation this year urging teachers to embrace 'academic freedom' and present the full spectrum of views on evolution and climate change. This would give educators license to treat evolution and intelligent design as equally valid theories, or to present climate change as scientifically contentious.

The Guardian - Trump is deleting climate change, one site at a time: The administration has taken a hatchet to climate change language across government websites. Here are several of the more egregious examples

During inauguration day on 20 January, as Donald Trump was adding "American carnage" to the presidential lexicon, the new administration also took a hammer to official recognition that climate change exists and poses a threat to the US.

One of the starkest alterations to the White House's website following Trump's assumption of office was the scrapping of an entire section on climate change, stuffed with graphs on renewable energy growth and pictures of Barack Obama gazing at shriveling glaciers, to be replaced by a perfunctory page entitled "An America first energy plan".

In the more than 100 days since, the administration has largely opted for a chisel and scalpel approach to refashioning its online content, but the end result is much the same - mentions of climate change have been excised, buried or stripped of any importance.

The Hill - Privatizing air traffic control would pose new risks to national security

The push for privatization of the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun again. As we discuss this course of action, national security must be a top consideration.

As someone who has spent nearly 35 years in law enforcement, including serving as director of the U.S. Secret Service, I think there are several key law enforcement and national security questions that have been overlooked and need to be considered as we discuss the merits of bringing private entities into the air traffic control governance structure.

I believe strongly in the wisdom that can be gained from the private sector. Privatization of the air traffic control, however, would pose a multitude of chain of command issues, differing priorities, and perspectives that could potentially elevate risk and interfere with the end goal of ensuring aviation security.

NPR - Lessons On Race And Vouchers From Milwaukee

The Trump administration has made school choice, vouchers in particular, a cornerstone of its education agenda. This has generated lots of interest in how school voucher programs across the country work and whom they benefit.
Over the years, though, most voucher recipients have performed no better academically than their public school peers. In some cases they've done worse. So who exactly is benefiting? It's a question that has raised serious misgivings in Milwaukee's African-American community. So much so that some of the city's prominent black leaders today are divided.

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