The Cabinet: Who They Are and What We Know; The First Hundred Days Series Part 1

Hello all,

This is the first installment in my opening series: The First Sixty Days. With new news breaking daily, it is difficult to keep track of each and every one of the scandals and conflicts of interest within the Trump administration. Thus, I have consolidated them into one document for reference purposes in an effort to ensure that these events are not forgotten.

Heads of Department:

  • Linda McMahon– Small Business Administrator: a woman whose political experience begins and ends with two failed senate campaigns in Connecticut, and whose business experience is limited to helping run a multi-million dollar professional wrestling company, and who donated a total of seven million dollars to pro-Trump Super-PACs in the months leading up to election is now in charge of Small Business.
  • Betsey DeVos– Secretary of Education: a woman with no education background whatsoever whose family has donated over eight million dollars to Republican Super-PACs, and who is in favor of deregulating and privatizing public school, and who has claimed that guns may have a place in some schools as a defense from “grizzly bears,” is in charge of deciding issues of school choice– decisions that drastically affect the opportunities of disabled students to receive equal education.
  • Alexander Acosta– Nominee for Head of the Department of Labor: a man who made a deal with billionaire Jeffery Epstein in a child sexual abuse case– the same Jeffery Epstein who stood as a co-defendant with President Trump in a case where both men stood accused of rape and unlawful imprisonment of a child, until the case was suddenly and inexplicably dropped in November.
  • Scott Pruitt– Head of the Environmental Protection Agency: a climate change denier who remains unconvinced of the effects of carbon dioxide on the environment is now in charge of deciding emissions regulations. The Oklahoma State Bar Association is also now considering an investigation to determine if he committed perjury during his confirmation hearing in regards to his now-confirmed use of a private email server in his capacity as Oklahoma Attorney General.

National Security:

  • Steven Bannon–Chief Strategist and National Security Council “Principles Committee” member: former chairman of Brietbart– an alt-right blog with no journalistic integrity–and a white nationalist with no government experience is sitting in a position generally reserved for high ranking members of the United States Armed Forces.
  • Sebastian Gorka– “Deputy Assistant” and “Terror Advisor” to the President and the National Security Council: a man with a very unclear title–and therefore an unknown amount of oversight– and position who has been accused of being a member of an international Nazi organization, whose only response to the charge was to qualify that he was not a “full” member– effectively, that he had never taken the sworn oath of allegiance, although he inherited and continues to claim the title of association.
  • Michael Flynn– former liaison to the Trump Campaign and former National Security Advisor: a man who had several unsanctioned conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak–a man known to United States Intelligence to be a covert operative for the Kremlin– in which he attempted to renegotiate sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in direct violation of the Logan Act, committed a felony by lying to the FBI in the process of an investigation, and then registered ex post facto as a foreign agent to Turkey– a piece of information allegedly known to the Trump campaign prior to his appointment. It should also be noted that one of the meetings between Flynn and Kislyak took place at Trump Towers, so the President’s assertion that he was not aware of the conversations, while not directly disprovable, certainly deserves a degree of suspicion.

The Campaign:

  • Ralph Shortey, former manager of the Trump Campaign in Oklahoma and an Oklahoma State Senator: arrested on charges of engaging in child prostitution and transporting a child for the purpose of prostitution, following years of work with a local YMCA youth program that is now under investigation, Shortey’s resignation from his position as a lawmaker has been demanded by the pubic, but not received.
  • Paul Manafort, former Trump Campaign manager (succeeded by Steve Bannon, below): a former employee of a Russian oligarch, received ten million dollars a year in exchange for his work on behalf of the Kremlin agenda in the years 2006-2009. According to Sean Spicer, Manafort’s most significant role in the campaign was his organization of the Republican National Convention– an event at which Sergey Kislyak was present (in staunch contrast with general precedent regarding foreign diplomats and party conventions) and later had an unsanctioned conversation with then-Senator Jeff Sessions.

The Inner Circle:

  • Mike Pence, Vice President: the same man who said that “mishandling classified information is a crime” in regards to the now-closed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server has been found to have used a private email server in his role as Governor of Indiana. While he has claimed that comparisons between his use of a private server and Clinton’s are baseless because the state information he was discussing was not sensitive, the emails were found to have contained enough classified information to be ineligible for a public records request.
  • Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff: a man who reached out to the FBI, attempting to pressure the agency into denying the existence of an investigation into any connection between the Trump Campaign and Administration and any Russian interference in the 2016 election–an investigation that was later revealed to be both legitimate and ongoing.
  • Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: the former CEO of Exxon Mobile and recipient of the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013, who broke precedent by failing to appear at the annual State Department Human Rights presentation and is now intending to bypass the upcoming NATO meeting in favor of a trip to Moscow.
  • Jeff Sessions, Attorney General: a man who, in his confirmation hearing for the highest legal office in the executive branch committed perjury by his own definition, stating unequivocally he “did not have any communications with the Russians” in spite of two meetings with the aforementioned Sergey Kislyak– once in his official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and once at the Republican National Convention, a trip he billed using personal campaign funds and therefore cannot be dismissed as Senate business. (On an aside, Kislyak, who did not attend the Democratic National Convention, was only briefly seen at the RNC– long enough to talk to several Trump surrogates, but not long enough to participate in any official, sanctioned capacity.) Sessions has since recused himself officially from any Russian investigations, but that did not stop him from requesting the resignations of all remaining United States Attorneys on the same day the American Civil Liberties Union filed an ethics complaint against him for his misleading Senate testimony. Among those from whom resignations were requested was one Preet Bharara, the one United States Attorney who refused to resign and was later fired, and who, interestingly, was originally promised to be allowed to remain in his post under the Trump administration. Also of note, Bharara, prior to his dismissal, had been investigating a Russian money laundering scheme– the key witness of which mysteriously fell from the fourth floor of his apartment in Moscow days ago, prior to court hearings both in Russia and the United States.

If it seems odd that I chose not to include the President himself in this account, it is because his conflicts of interests and foreign ties are so deep as to deserve a separate evaluation, which will be forthcoming. I also intend, as another part of the First Sixty Days Recap Series to recall the executive actions and legislative intentions of the President, so stay tuned for that in the coming days. Finally, as the Gorsuch hearings continue and the House of Representatives moves forward with a vote on the American Health Care Act, look for summary posts on those proceedings in the near future as well.

If you found this blog post useful, or know someone who might, please give it a follow and a share. Information is the greatest weapon of the resistance, we must disseminate it as frequently and effectively as possible if we hope to succeed in the face of a government that appears intent upon suppressing truth.

This is the ALF, signing off.

House Intelligence Committee: Public Testimony on Russian Interference Day 1

Well, well, well. I just managed to get the settings on this blog configured in time for an incredibly slow news day… 😉

Right. Now that you all have passed the sarcasm test, today was an absurd day in United States politics. It was a split-screen full-day circus, with the House Intelligence Committee beginning their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election and the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning their confirmation hearings for the Honorable Neil Gorsuch, nominee to the United States Supreme Court. If that scheduling feels like a sleight of hand trick, that’s because it most likely is– to say nothing for the vote scheduled on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) later in the week.

While the confirmation hearings for Judge Gorsuch will become incredibly relevant tomorrow and throughout the week, today’s nearly five hours of opening statements were not particularly newsworthy as compared to the concurrent processes in the House Intelligence Committee, so that will be our focus for this evening.

FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers sat before the Committee in nearly six hours of testimony covering Russian hacking and interference, intelligence leaks, the Trump campaign and administration, and the President’s inflammatory claim that President Obama had his “wires tapped” in Trump tower during his candidacy.

To begin at the end, so to speak, both Comey and Rogers made clear that neither the FBI nor the NSA had uncovered any evidence to suggest that President Obama had ordered any unlawful surveillance of Trump Towers or the then President-elect. James Comey continued, saying he had also been authorized by the Department of Justice to say that none of their offices had any evidence to substantiate the claim either. This conclusive answer to what seemed an obvious question from the start–at least to anyone with even a moderate working knowledge of the rigorous standards that preclude FISA warrants– comes after everyone from Paul Ryan, house majority leader, to Mitch McConnell, senate majority leader, to myriad democrats and republicans alike denying–or at least failing to support–the claim over the past number of days. Thus, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the apparent entirety of the United States Intelligence community all agree that such surveillance did not occur. The only parties who remain unconvinced are those in the White House. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer once again defended the claim today following the testimony of Comey and Rogers on the matter, insisting that there still may be more to the story. Meanwhile, the rest of us are more than ready to close the book on this one– other than to say that the President of the United States using the power of his office to knowingly defame the character of another public figure seems to violate the “faithfully execute the Office of the President” part of the Oath of Office, and certainly qualifies as a civil tort, but ultimately the pursuit of this is nothing more than a distraction in light of the real information presented in Committee today.

The story of the House Intelligent Committee today may as well have been A Tale of Two Cities: on the one hand, Democratic members focused in on the story of Russian interference in the election process and any possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign and administration, while on the other, Republicans focused their lines of questioning on leaks emerging from the intelligence committee. Briefly– leaks are a very real problem, and have the potential to endanger national security if not addressed. That said, Russian interference in our democratic process is a real and already existing threat to National Security, and should be acknowledged as the main priority.

The biggest story of the day happened fairly early on in Committee: James Comey stated unequivocally that Russia “engaged in a multifaceted campaign of active measures to undermine our democracy in order to hurt [Clinton] and help [Trump].” He stopped just short of referring to this multifaceted campaign as an “act of war,” but that did not prevent several democratic representatives from using the phrase. Comey also confirmed that the FBI is “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” This confirmation came after Comey reiterated that the FBI generally does not comment on ongoing investigations except in “rare circumstances” where it is “in the public interest.” (The irony of this following his willingness to discuss what was already known to be an inconclusive investigation into Huma Abedien’s server days before the election cannot be ignored, but at least he found a shred of consistency.) Later, when pressed by Peter King, (R-NY2) Comey also declined an opportunity to deny that there was existing evidence of collusion–while instructing the Committee and viewers alike not to read into a statement that clearly came with a whole shipping crate full of subtext– and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH2) was able to get him to admit that in order to begin such an investigation into President Trump as the FBI is conducting, there would need to be a “credible allegation” or “reasonable basis” for such a probe.

Finally, to add a shred of humor on top of what was, generally speaking, an incredibly victorious day for the resistance… Donald Trump was, naturally, tweeting about the Committee hearings through his usual “alternative-fact” lens. A few hours into the testimony, the President tweeted from his official @POTUS account:

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Following a recess, Representative Jim Hines (D-CT4) made the brilliant decision to ask Comey and Rogers whether the tweet represented an accurate account of their earlier statements–note that the attached video, while unaltered, is cut off before several significant qualifying statements from the two aforementioned men. They diplomatically, but unequivocally agreed that the tweet was “not quite right,” and clarified that they did not “have any information on the subject [of potential collusion between the Trump administration and Russia].” While I generally find the President’s tweets to be abhorrent, they certainly provided an ample opportunity for some real-time fact checking and message clarification today– something desperately needed in a day and age where every word is twisted into a false and self-aggrandizing narrative designed to benefit the White House.

The real questions now are:

  1. What further information will emerge in classified sessions of the Committee and in the course of this investigation, and what consequences will emerge from such information?
  2. Should the government continue with business as usual, including the confirmation hearings for Judge Gorsuch, in the face of testimony that the President of the United States and his cabinet are under investigation for potentially colluding with a foreign power to undermine the sanctity of our democracy?
  3. And, how will President Trump and his apologists spin a live testimony? It becomes difficult to claim “fake news” when the entire country is watching a firsthand account.

It seems, finally, that there may be more answers than questions on the horizon. Until then– stay tuned, keep your eyes open, and keep resisting.

This is the ALF, signing off.

Introduction

Hello folks!

This is the beginning of what I hope will be a long, productive foray into speaking truth to power, whether that power is in the federal, state, or local governments, or in the power structures those governments uphold. For the time being my primary goals are going to be consolidating the events surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency and getting the word out about my local community organizing and activism efforts in the hopes of getting more citizens of Daytona Beach and Volusia County involved. There will also be a smattering of feminist news and commentary when the day’s events allow.

In the coming week I will post a recap of the first sixty days, as well as begin my routine postings about newsworthy events. I will be posting following any fast-breaking significant events, and will otherwise post amalgamations of the events of the past day or two reduced to short blurbs and commentary with sourced information for more in-depth reading. Finally, I will be posting a weekly round-up thread at the end of every week for those looking for a shorter briefing of only the most relevant information.

This may very well be one of the most pivotal political eras in United States history. Certainly it appears it will be remembered as one of the more inflammatory. As the President continues to try to set the narrative– one based less and less frequently in fact, we must all recognize our obligation to stay informed, get involved, and take action, and rise to meet it.

We are the majority.
We are the informed masses.
We are the guardians of liberty.
We are the defenders of the Constitution.
We are the resistance.