Saturday, March 3, 2018

Calamities, Chaos, and Corruption - Life in the White House is not so cushy for Kushner

And that is a gross understatement.

During our stay in Queenstown New Zealand, over a glass of wine a British lady invited my reaction to our president, Donald Trump. She said her husband wend to bed the night of our 2016 election knowing that America would not elect Trump. All I could do was hold my head and moan. Here’s why.

Columns in the Washington Post and MSNBC characterize the administration as beset by calamities, chaos, and corruption - and son-in-law and senior advisor (nepotism, anyone?) Jared Kushner is in the thick of it all.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) leads off with Kushner failing to get a top secret clearance in Scandal surrounding Jared Kushner grows more serious.

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s young son-in-law, is having an unusually brutal week. It started in earnest with the loss of his White House security clearance, which will almost certainly impair his ability to do his job, and which stems from his difficulties under the scrutiny of an FBI background check. Things got much worse when the Washington Post reported that officials in at least four foreign countries concluded that Kushner’s financial difficulties and inexperience made him easy to manipulate. It didn’t help that White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster discovered that Kushner hadn’t coordinated – or even fully disclosed – some of his foreign contacts.

Making matters even more serious, the New York Times published this bombshell report on Wednesday night, which said Kushner’s family real-estate company received two enormous loans from two companies whose executives met with Jared Kushner as part of his White House duties.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, nobody’s denying that the loans were made; nobody’s denying that Kushner had a personal financial stake in the specific entities that received these giant loans; and nobody’s denying that the White House meetings took place with Kushner before those loans were made to his family’s company.

The result is a picture that looks awfully corrupt: a senior adviser to the president of the United States took meetings in the White House with companies who are seeking something from the White House, and then subsequently those companies shoveled hundreds of millions of dollars to that White House official and his family business.

Benen refers us to this NBC News report for details: Mueller team asking if Kushner foreign business ties influenced Trump policy.

That’s just a snapshot in the unfolding drama of Trump vs. everyone else. We have not yet reached bottom when it comes to the incompetence and corruption endemic to the Trump White House. Over at the Post Eugene Robinson notes that Never have we seen such chaos and corruption and Jennifer Rubin tells us that Trump’s calamities are coming faster — and in bunches.

The ceaseless barrage of news — both real and fake — from the Trump administration can be numbing, so it’s important to step back every once in a while and look at the big picture: Never have we seen such utter chaos and blatant corruption.

Just for example. Robinson writes"

… Trump convened a televised negotiating session with members of Congress on the subject of gun violence. To the escalating horror of Republicans present, he heartily endorsed several Democratic gun control proposals — and then went much further, saying that in the case of individuals who are mentally unstable, authorities should “take the guns first, go through due process second.”

But we already know that the NRA will not let this stand.

Any other president who displayed such cavalier disregard for previous policy positions and total ignorance of basic facts would have provoked an uproar. Trump barely gets a shrug. Nobody expects him to be consistent. Nobody expects him to know anything about anything. He is defining the presidency down in a way that we must not tolerate.

I spent years as a foreign correspondent in Latin America. To say we are being governed like a banana republic is an insult to banana republics. It’s that bad, and no one should pretend otherwise.

As examples of of the calamities, Rubin elaborates.

In the course of a week, President Trump convulsed the markets and American business with a protectionist initiative which, if carried out, risks setting off a trade war; he scrambled Republicans by promising to back a bunch of gun measures he probably doesn’t intend to back once his aides explain that the National Rifle Association and his base oppose most of what he embraced; and he refused to empower his national security team to protect our election system against future manipulation by Russia.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (who attended that Trump Tower meeting with Russians) lost his top-secret-level interim security clearance, and was found to have received hundreds of millions of dollars ($184 million from Apollo Global Management and $325 million from Citigroup) in business loans after meeting with top executives at the White House.

John F. Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff,… seems ready to take on Kushner. In turn, Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are feuding with Kelly, and are not bothering to disguise their animosity.

There are allegations of misused funds/improper travel expenses involving the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the secretaries of Veterans Affairs, Interior, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development. Hope Hicks, Trump’s longtime aide, is leaving and H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, is reportedly on his way out. Senior economic adviser Gary Cohn, distressed by Trump’s plunge into protectionism, might now go as well.

Now, anyone who is surprised by the utter chaos, the ethical sleaze, the policy incoherence and the nepotism/cronyism was not paying attention during Trump’s career in real estate or during his campaign. This is how Trump ran his family operation, stumbling through one failed venture after another. This is how Trump wound up declaring bankruptcy multiple times. No one — not Kelly, Ivanka, Jared, the GOP Congress or even Hicks — can keep him on task. Trump is still indifferent to learning policy and is prone to prattle in public about subjects he doesn’t bother to study. No one else can make up for his lack of diligence, ethics and decency. This is not so much as an administration as a weird fusion of the court of Louis XIV and the Mafia, all built around a cult of personality that lacks any self-restraint or awareness.

Republicans who empowered him and refused to stand up to him have a giant mess on their hands — a dysfunctional government and a looming electoral disaster. Trump will either be compelled to leave office or will continue to spin out of control. Aides tell the press this is a new level of chaos. Don’t worry — it’ll get worse. It always does.

There does not seem to be a bottom to the corruption and chaos.

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