Steve July 4, 2020

Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

When pundits point out that with four months to go until Election Day, it isn’t too late for Trump to turn his campaign around, what they’re really saying is that there’s sufficient time left on the calendar for a candidate who grasped why he or she was losing to change course and abandon a clearly failing strategy.

Trump’s malignant narcissism makes that impossible. Unable to grasp that he lucked into the White House as a result of a perfect storm of factors despite being the most unpopular candidate in history, Trump is convinced that his ugly demagoguery was a stroke of political genius, and is now doubling down on the bigotry in the belief that he might finally score a win in the culture wars even as the public is trending away from his side of the conflict.

Meanwhile, NBC reports that, “after several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it.”

After repeatedly attempting to slash the CDC’s budget and refusing to allow the agency to brief the public early on in the crisis, Trump’s team plans to blame the agency for the government’s inept response to the outbreak.

And they’re managing what may be the biggest scandal of Trump’s scandal-ridden presidency the only way they know how. The New York Times reported this week that the regime produced a memo that “acknowledged that the C.I.A. and top counterterrorism officials have assessed that Russia appears to have offered bounties to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, but emphasized uncertainties and gaps in evidence.”

The memo is said to contain no new information, and both its timing and its stressing of doubts suggested that it was intended to bolster the Trump administration’s attempts to justify its inaction on the months-old assessment, the officials said. Some former national security officials said the account of the memo indicated that politics may have influenced its production.

Americans are faced with a pandemic that’s totally out of control. The unemployment rate is at its highest point since the Great Depression. And Trump is responding by officially giving up on the crisis and ordering the creation of a national “heroes garden,” presumably to honor long-dead slave-owners.

There may be time enough for a mentally stable person to turn a troubled campaign around, but the Trump campaign is saddled with Trump, and the only way he can win another term is by rigging the game.


Regular readers know that an enormous number of well-connected Republican operatives have gone into the overpriced PPE business in recent months.

Now Politico reports that White House officials are unhappy that the Department of Justice created a taskforce to stop price-gouging with these life-saving supplies. Politico says they’re acting on their “free market philosophy,” which is a very generous reading of the situation.


Trump’s relentless efforts to purge the federal government of people who aren’t deemed sufficiently loyal to him will now be overseen by a lackey who once claimed that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was a practicing Satanist, according to Axios.


Speaking of only the best people, “a Trump administration appointee at the United States’ agency responsible for foreign aid has a history of inflammatory rhetoric aimed at refugees, the LGBTQ community and women,” according to CNN.

The comments come from Merritt Corrigan, the recently appointed deputy White House liaison at the US Agency for International Development, in tweets in 2019 and 2020. CNN’s KFile reviewed 400 previously unreported tweets from Corrigan’s feed, which were captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Corrigan previously worked at Hungary’s Embassy in the US where she repeatedly tweeted support for far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, calling him “the shining champion of Western civilization,” according to ProPublica, which reported on several of Corrigan’s tweets on June 5.


What could go wrong?

President Tweety McTreason will formally nominate William Perry Pendley, a self-proclaimed “sagebrush rebel” with extreme anti-environmental views and a long history of advocating for the sale of federal lands in the West, to serve as director of the Bureau of Land Management. [Huffpo]



Tweety McTreason’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway is facing demands that he abandon his pursuit of the diplomatic post following the unearthing of a 1994 court filing indicating his involvement in the production of a racist campaign flier against an African American politician in Georgia.


“Several U.S. ambassadors actively shed their stock holdings as President Tweety McTreason tried to downplay the coronavirus outbreak in its early stages,” according to CNBC.

Ambassadors to Uruguay, France, Morocco and Italy sold shares in transactions that could have made them millions of dollars, according to financial disclosure filings reviewed by CNBC. Much of their sales were in January and continued throughout February, the records show. Their transactions line up with a timeline of federal and congressional announcements as the virus started sweeping across the globe earlier this year.


Here are a couple of related stories.

Senate Republicans stripped a measure from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have required campaigns to report offers from foreign entities to help them win an election, according to CNN.

And The Washington Post reports that pro-Russian officials in Ukraine are circulating heavily edited snippets of recordings of Joe Biden discussing the disposition of a corrupt former prosecutor.

Giuliani said he received assistance in his pursuit of Biden tapes from a source within the State Department, who he claimed pointed him to the dates of certain conversations between Biden and Poroshenko by accessing an official U.S. government archive.

— Matea Gold (@mateagold) June 30, 2020


New York Times:

The Department of Commerce is preventing the release of an investigation’s findings into whether it coerced the head of a federal agency into supporting Tweety McTreason’s erroneous claim that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama last year, the department’s inspector general said on Wednesday.


Ken Klippenstein reports for The Nation that ICE was quietly designated as a security agency rather than a law enforcement organization, which “puts ICE employees in the same category as high-level intelligence officials, and blocks from disclosure information that is typically public.”


A grifter named Tommy Fisher fleeced Trump supporters for $25 million to build a private wall on the US-Mexico border, which he then leveraged for $1.7 billion in federal contracts to construct more wall in Arizona.

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune report that now his model wall “is showing signs of runoff erosion and, if it’s not fixed, could be in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, according to engineers and hydrologists who reviewed photos of the wall… It never should have been built so close to the river, they say.”


And we leave you this week with a small piece of good news via NBC...

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday night that the Trump administration’s strictest asylum policy to date is illegal.

A rule put in place in 2019 prohibited immigrants from claiming asylum in the United States if they did not first try to claim it in a country they passed through on their way to the U.S. border.

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly of Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of immigrant nonprofits and asylum-seekers who argued that the rule known as the “third-country asylum rule,” which was jointly published by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, violated the Immigration and Nationality Act.

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