Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Political News Dump

One of my favorite radio programs/podcasts is Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!  A news quiz show, relying frequently on political humor, the program had created a segment called the Trump Dump to cover the bevy of news items that seemed to continue to come from this administration.

This week seems to be particularly full in the Trump Dump, and it's only Tuesday.  It has certainly shaping up to be an interesting week so far for the Trump administration, with Thursday, September 27, 2018, looking to be a particular focal point for interest.

Things started with news regarding deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein over the weekend.  On Friday, September 21, 2018, the New York Times published an article outlining how Rosentein had suggested last spring (2017) that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos in the administration and that he had discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office for being unfit to serveBy Friday evening, Mr. Rosenstein had become convinced he should resign and offered a late-day visit to the White House to quit.  White House chief of staff John Kelly demurred.  From there, aides began planning over the weekend for his departure, as Rosenstein told Kelly and White House counsele Donald McGahn that he was considering resigning.  Rosenstein was told to postpone any discussion until Monday, particularly as there were those who believed that only the president could legally accept any resignation.  On Monday, September 24, 2018, Rosenstein and Ed O'Callaghan, his top deputy, raced to the White House for the final word.  Justice Department officials were even telling reporters they expected Rosenstein to be fired.  News went wild.  Following discussions with Kelly, McGahn, and a request for a conversation with President Trump, word leaked that there was evidence Rosenstein was not resigning nor was he fired.  Rosenstein will not be able to meet with the president until Thursday, September 27, when the president returns from the United Nations General Assembly.

Rosenstein has been a thorn in Trump's side for a while now, particularly with regard to the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller.

Trump has apparently been frustrated with Rosenstein's unwillingness to remove or fire Mueller and end the investigation. 

Rosenstein's resignation or firing would lead to a whole other set of complications.  Apparently, there is a Constitutional question regarding how his vacancy would be filled should he be fired.  The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1988 provides for the president to temporarily replace an officer from an executive agency who dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions or duties of the office with a Senate-confirmed political appointee.  The law is silent, though, when it comes to such a person being fired.  This could lead to a political fight over the president's appointee.

Further, the most likely successor is Noel J. Francisco, the solicitor general.  This however could be problematic as he is potentially conflicted from overseeing the Russia investigation, as his law firm, Jones Day, is representing the Trump campaign in the inquiry.

And should Rosenstein resign or be fired, he would be the merely the latest in a list of nearly fifty top executives that have either been fired, resigned under pressure, or resigned from their posts in the administration.

Further, the allegations of the need for a wire to expose the chaos and the rumblings of the invocation of the 25th Amendment only seem to further substantiate the anonymous op ed previously published and the stories revealed in Woodward's book Fear.  More evidence that we are right to be concerned.


To add to this trouble, additional accusations regarding sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in his high school and college days, ahead of his new hearing date of Thursday, September 27, 2018.  Deborah Ramirez, a colleague at Yale, alleges that while they were both freshman at Yale and drinking at a dorm room party, Kavanaugh, as well as other men present, exposed himself to her, forcing her to touch his genitals to push them away from her face.  With this incident, there is a bit more corroborating evidence surrounding it.  The story as told was corroborated by another classmate who declined to be identified.  Others, remember the incident, but not the parties involved.   Further, a pattern has begun to emerge in how classmates referred to Kavanaugh's partying in college. Classmates have described him as an "aggressive and even belligerent" drunk and as "frequently, incoherently drunk."  His general behavior at college had even become a point of discussion among classmates following the news of his nomination.

Even Kavanaugh's high school yearbook has been poured over, revealing a version of Kavanaugh's past that does not seem to match how he describes it.  There are more insights into the hard drinking atmosphere that Kavanaugh seemed to engage in - a boast of "100 kegs or bust" for the Keg City Club on his personal page.  It also showed a reference to the "Renate Alumni," which was referenced by 14 of his fellow classmates, one of whom even included a poem, "You need a date/and it's getting late/so don't hesitate/to call Renate."  This apparently refers to a student at a nearby Catholic girls' school, Renate Dolphin, nee Schroeder.  Ms. Dolphin was one of the women who had signed a recent letter supporting Kavanaugh's character, and has indicated to a friend that while she stood by the letter's contents, she was "sickened" by the yearbook references that are coming out.

Beyond this, a third, unnamed accuser who is a former employee of the State Department and US Mint is also expected to come forward in the next 48 hours, with additional information regarding how Mark Judge and Kavanaugh behaved at countless house parties while high school students in the Georgetown area.  Michael Avenatti, attorney for the accuser, claims significant evidence of use of drugs and alcohol for gang rape.

And while Kavanaugh continues to deny all allegations, more and more evidence seems to be mounting revealing that at the very least, his version of his high school and college days does not match the version that others remember.  And that will be problematic for him.  If the allegations are true, then there is no question he must be held accountable.  As more and more comes to light, we move beyond questions of how long can a person's past be held against them.  If all of the allegations are true, we are seeing a pattern of behavior that needs to be accounted for and appropriately dealt with.  I don't know that we will see that in the hearing process, but it is shaping up to be an even uglier process than anyone could have imagined.

The President has stood by Kavanaugh and downplayed all acquisitions accusations.

Finally, Trump's speech at the United Nations General Assembly today did not go exactly as planned.  There was a bit of an awkward and unexpected moment when other leaders laughed or grumbled at Trump's boasts about his administrations accomplishments.  "I didn't expect that reaction but that's okay."

All issues creating the potential for a very explosive Thursday as the president meets with Rosenstein and Kavanaugh goes before the committee again.

Who knows what will happen next?

Have we ever been in such deep chaos with any other administration?

Interesting times indeed.

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