Trump Administration, Week 101: Friday, 21 December – Thursday, 27 December 2018 (Days 701-707)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.


Friday, 21 December 2018, Day 701:


Major parts of the federal government begin shutting down for an indefinite closureThe Washington Post, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, and John Wagner, published at 12:00 AM on Saturday, 22 December 2018: “Large parts of the federal government shut down overnight after President Trump torpedoed a bipartisan spending deal because it lacked the money he demanded for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Funding for numerous agencies, including those that operate parks, homeland security, law enforcement, tax collection and transportation, expired at midnight. Close to 400,000 federal workers are expected to be home without pay until a deal is reached, and numerous services will be halted in that time, with the impacts broadening the longer the funding lapse lasts. The shutdown intensifies a standoff between Trump, who is demanding $5.7 billion for a border wall, and congressional Democrats, who have vowed to block any wall funding and have the votes to do so. It marks a deflating final chapter for Republicans as they complete two years of unified GOP control in Washington — as well as an acrimonious prelude to the upcoming era of divided government, after Democrats take the House in January. Trump saw the final days of this year as his last chance to try to extract funding for the wall, while Democrats, united against the wall and buttressed by big wins in the midterm elections, showed no signs of buckling to his demands amid a flurry of attacks this week. The White House and congressional leaders continued negotiations late Friday, but by 8:30 p.m., the House and the Senate had adjourned for the night. That made it impossible to vote on any spending agreement until Saturday, and it remained unclear whether any deal would materialize by then.” See also, Government Partially Shuts Down as Talks Fail to Break ImpasseThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Emily Cochrane, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The federal government shut down early Saturday after congressional and White House officials failed to find a compromise on a spending bill that hinged on President Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for a border wall. It is the third shutdown in two years of unified Republican rule in Washington, and it will stop work at nine federal departments and several other agencies. Hundreds of thousands of government employees are affected…. As in previous government shutdowns, it will not affect core government functions like the Postal Service, the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs and entitlement programs, including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps. But about 380,000 workers would be sent home and would not be paid. Another 420,000 considered too essential to be furloughed would be forced, like the Border Patrol officers, to work without pay.”

The Supreme Court Won’t Allow the Trump Administration to Immediately Enforce Its New Policy of Denying Asylum to Migrants Who Illegally Cross the Mexican BorderThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The Supreme Court refused on Friday to allow the Trump administration to immediately enforce its new policy of denying asylum to migrants who illegally cross the Mexican border. The Supreme Court’s two-sentence order revealed a new dynamic at the court, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the four-member liberal wing in refusing to immediately reinstate the administration’s asylum policy. The chief justice, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush in 2005, is now plainly at the court’s ideological center, a spot that had long belonged to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired in July and was replaced in October by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. The court’s ruling thwarted, at least for now, President Trump’s proclamation last month that only migrants who arrived in the United States legally or applied at a port of entry would be eligible for asylum. And it is likely to only heighten tensions between Chief Justice Roberts and Mr. Trump, for whom limiting immigration is a central concern and who has been quick to criticize judges who rule against his immigration programs.” See also, The Supreme Court denies the Trump administration’s request to immediately enforce new asylum rulesThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 21 December 2018: “A divided Supreme Court on Friday refused to allow the Trump administration to immediately enforce a new policy of denying asylum to those who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a conservative nominated by President George W. Bush, sided with the court’s four liberals in denying the request, which lower courts had stopped after finding it a likely violation of federal law. For the first time on a contested issue, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, nominated by President Trump and confirmed in October after a brutal partisan battle, noted his agreement with the court’s other conservatives. He and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — Trump’s other nominee to the court — would have granted the administration’s request to let the order go into effect. The decision was about whether to lift a lower court’s stay of Trump’s new asylum regulation, not on the merits of his plan. The legal fight on that could return to the Supreme Court.” See also, Supreme court rejects Trump plea to enforce asylum ban at US-Mexico borderThe Guardian, Agencies in Washington, Friday, 21 December 2018.

Trump administration revokes Obama-era effort to reduce racial bias in school disciplineThe Washington Post, Laura Meckler, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The Trump administration rescinded documents Friday meant to guide schools in handling discipline, turning back an Obama-era effort aimed at reducing widespread racial disparities in how students are suspended, expelled and otherwise punished. The controversial move by the Education and Justice departments was made official Friday but was widely expected. The guidance, which was not binding, put school systems on notice that they could be violating federal civil rights law if students of color were disciplined at higher rates than white students. It laid out scenarios and explained how they would be viewed by federal authorities. And it offered suggestions for alternatives to discipline that could foster positive school climates.”

Continue reading Week 101, Friday, 21 December – Thursday, 27 December 2018 (Days 701-707)

Trump lashed out at acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, angered by federal prosecutors who referenced Trump’s actions in crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty toCNN, Laura Jarrett and Pamela Brown, Friday, 21 December 2018: “President Donald Trump has at least twice in the past few weeks vented to his acting attorney general, angered by federal prosecutors who referenced the President’s actions in crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. Trump was frustrated, the sources said, that prosecutors Matt Whitaker oversees filed charges that made Trump look bad. None of the sources suggested that the President directed Whitaker to stop the investigation, but rather lashed out at what he felt was an unfair situation. The first known instance took place when Trump made his displeasure clear to acting attorney general Matt Whitaker after Cohen pleaded guilty November 29 to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Whitaker had only been on the job a few weeks following Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions. Over a week later, Trump again voiced his anger at Whitaker after prosecutors in Manhattan officially implicated the President in a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of women around the 2016 campaign — something Trump fiercely maintains isn’t an illegal campaign contribution. Pointing to articles he said supported his position, Trump pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York who brought the charges in the first place, suggesting they were going rogue. The previously unreported discussions between Trump and Whitaker described by multiple sources familiar with the matter underscore the extent to which the President firmly believes the attorney general of the United States should serve as his personal protector. The episodes also offer a glimpse into the unsettling dynamic of a sitting president talking to his attorney general about investigations he’s potentially implicated in.”

Trump Discusses Firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell After Latest Rate Hike, Sources SayBloomberg, Jennifer Jacobs, Saleha Mohsin, and Margaret Talev, Friday, 21 December 2018: “President Donald Trump has discussed firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as his frustration with the central bank chief intensified following this week’s interest-rate hike and months of stock-market losses, according to four people familiar with the matter. Advisers close to Trump aren’t convinced he would move against Powell and are hoping that the president’s latest bout of anger will dissipate over the holidays, the people said on condition of anonymity. Some of Trump’s advisers have warned him that firing Powell would be a disastrous move. Yet the president has talked privately about firing Powell many times in the past few days, said two of the people. Any attempt by Trump to push out Powell would have potentially devastating ripple effects across financial markets, undermining investors’ confidence in the central bank’s ability to shepherd the economy without political interference. It would come as markets have plummeted in recent weeks, with the major stock indexes already down sharply for the year.”

North Carolina election officials sounded alarm about alleged election fraud to federal prosecutors in January 2017The Washington Post, Amy Gardner and Beth Reinhard, Friday, 21 December 2018: “North Carolina state election officials told federal prosecutors in January 2017 that they found evidence of efforts to manipulate the absentee ballot vote in rural Bladen County in the 2016 election and warned that such activities ‘will likely continue for future elections’ if not addressed, according to correspondence obtained Friday by The Washington Post. In a Jan. 30, 2017, letter addressed to then-U. S. Attorney John Bruce of the Eastern District of North Carolina, Kim Strach, the executive director of the State Board of Elections, said the agency had conducted a ‘lengthy investigation’ of alleged absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County. ‘Our findings to date suggest that individuals and potentially groups of individuals engaged in efforts to manipulate election results through the absentee ballot process,’ Strach wrote. ‘The evidence we have obtained suggest that these efforts may have taken place in the past and if not addressed will likely continue for future elections.’ The letter raises fresh questions about whether federal investigators took any actions to scrutinize the complaints.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Undergoes Cancer SurgeryThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 21 December 2018: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery on Friday to remove two nodules from her left lung, according to Kathleen Arberg, a Supreme Court spokeswoman. The nodules were discovered during tests following a fall in November in which Justice Ginsburg fractured her ribs. The surgery, a pulmonary lobectomy, took place at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. According to the justice’s thoracic surgeon, Dr. Valerie W. Rusch, the nodules removed during surgery were found to be malignant, Ms. Arberg said in a statement. After the surgery, she added, ‘there was no evidence of any remaining disease’ and ‘scans performed before surgery indicated no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body. Currently, no further treatment is planned,’ Ms. Arberg said, ‘Justice Ginsburg is resting comfortably and is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days.'”

In 2015 Mick Mulvaney, incoming White House acting-chief of staff, characterized Trump’s views on a border wall as ‘simplistic,’ and ‘absurd and almost childish,’ CNN, Andrew Kaczynski, Friday, 21 December 2018: “Incoming White House acting-chief of staff Mick Mulvaney once called President Donald Trump’s views on a border wall and immigration ‘simplistic’ and ‘absurd and almost childish.’ A physical barrier would not stop undocumented immigrants from crossing the Mexican border and ranchers at the border say they don’t need a fence, Mulvaney said in a 2015 interview uncovered by KFile. As Trump’s man in charge at the White House, however, Mulvaney would be tasked with leading the administration’s push to build a wall along the US-Mexico border…. The instance is another example of Mulvaney attacking Trump during the presidential campaign. It comes as he is taking over as acting chief of staff, replacing Gen. John Kelly. Last Friday, The Daily Beast reported that as a congressman, Mulvaney said Trump was ‘a terrible human being’ during a November 2016 congressional debate. CNN’s KFile reported on Monday that Mulvaney said in October 2016 Trump would be disqualified from office in an ‘ordinary universe.’ In both instances, Mulvaney said he was still supporting Trump over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

Trump administration is holding a record number of migrant youthsThe Washington Post, Arelis R. Hernández, Friday, 21 December 2018: “With a record number of migrant children and teens in U.S. government custody, the Trump administration is easing screening of potential sponsors, a change officials say will speed the release of minors from shelters that are nearly full. By dropping a six-month-old requirement that all people living in the home of a would-be sponsor submit fingerprints to the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services says it may be able to send thousands of migrant youths to relatives or other temporary guardians by Christmas. The amount of time children are spending in HHS facilities has grown dramatically in recent months — averaging 90 days as of November — mostly because it is taking the government longer to find and vet sponsors. HHS says the fingerprinting of all members of a household, ordered in June, had ‘generally not yielded additional information that has enabled [officials] to identify new child welfare risks.’ But the government is keeping a second, equally controversial policy that advocates say also has slowed the release process: allowing HHS to share information about those they are screening with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Between July and late November, ICE arrested 170 individuals suspected of being in the country illegally as a result of information that came from sponsor-related background checks. The majority did not have criminal records, ICE said (being in the country illegally is a civil violation). Immigration lawyers and advocates say the information-sharing arrangement — and the arrests — have had a chilling effect on sponsors, leaving children in federal custody longer, and in some cases indefinitely, if no one comes forward to claim them.”

Trump has made 7,546 false or misleading claims over 700 daysThe Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The numbers are astonishing. In the first eight months of his presidency, President Trump made 1,137 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day. In October, as he barnstormed the country holding rallies in advance of the midterm elections, the president made 1,205 claims — an average of 39 a day. Combined with the rest of his presidency, that adds up to a total of 7,546 claims through Dec. 20, the 700th day of his term in office, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.”

What Ronald Reagan actually said about border security–according to history, not President TrumpThe Washington Post, Katie Mettler, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The year was 1980, the location was Houston and the question came from the crowd at a presidential primary debate between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — two bellwether conservatives who would eventually serve together as president and vice president. Should ‘illegal aliens,’ the crowd member asked, be allowed to attend U.S. public schools? Bush said immigration policy needed to be ‘sensitive’ and ‘understanding’ toward the ‘really honorable, decent, family-loving people’ that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without documentation. Reagan echoed that sentiment. ‘Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit,’ he said. ‘And then while they’re working and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back they can go back.’ The border, he said, should be open ‘both ways’ — and border security policy should take into account the economic challenges facing Mexico. Reagan’s words that night, and his stance in countless other public and private statements as president, contrast starkly with the false history lesson President Trump offered Friday in an early-morning tweet, hours before a potential government shutdown over funding for the president’s border wall. ‘Even President Ronald Reagan tried for 8 years to build a Border Wall, or Fence, and was unable to do so,’ the president wrote in a tweet. ‘Others also have tried. We will get it done, one way or the other!'” See also, In Tweetstorm, Trump Posts Inaccurate and Contradictory claims About Foreign Policy and the Border WallThe New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 21 December 2018: “With a government shutdown looming and after the resignation of his defense secretary, President Trump posted inaccurate and contradictory claims about the border wall, Ronald Reagan, China and Russia and the Islamic State.”


Saturday, 22 December 2018, Day 702:


Government Shutdown to Continue for Days as Senate Adjourns Until ThursdayThe New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Katie Rogers, Saturday, 22 December 2018: “As the White House and Democrats remained locked in a standoff over funding for President Trump’s border wall, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sent his colleagues home for the Christmas holiday on Saturday, virtually ensuring that the government will remain partially shuttered for at least several more days. Mr. McConnell’s adjournment of the Senate until Thursday came after a frenzied day of negotiations in Washington and conflicting signals from the White House. Around the country, the partial shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and affects roughly one-quarter of the federal government, deprived 800,000 workers of their pay and was visible at places like national parks, where sites were unstaffed or, in some cases, closed. Mr. Trump is demanding $5 billion for the ‘big, beautiful wall’ he promised to build at the southern border, and in a conference call with reporters, administration officials insisted that he would accept nothing less. But even as they spoke, Vice President Mike Pence was on his way to the Capitol to present an offer to the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York.” See also, Shutdown to stretch on until at least Thursday as Senate adjourns with no deal over budget and Trump’s border wallThe Washington Post, Paul Kane, David Weigel, and Philip Rucker, Saturday, 22 December 2018.

Brett McGurk, top U.S. envoy in fight against ISIS, resignsCBS News, Margaret Brennan, Saturday, 22 December 2018: “Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, had been planning to exit his post in February 2019. But sources tell CBS News that he informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he will accelerate his departure due to a strong disagreement with President Trump’s snap decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, effectively abandoning U.S. allies in the region. McGurk submitted his resignation on Friday, just one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis quit his post citing fundamental disagreements with the commander-in-chief — including one over the importance of honoring U.S. alliances. The special envoy was publicly left in the lurch by the president’s sudden declaration on Wednesday that he was pulling U.S. forces out of Syria, against the advice of his top national security advisers and without consulting U.S. allies. As leader of the counter ISIS mission, McGurk had been in the region to meet with coalition partners including Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani last week when Mr. Trump made his sudden decision to pull U.S. support. According to Barzani’s office, he had raised concern about the fate of Kurds in Syria including the Kurdish-led group of fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They have been the ground troops in the fight against ISIS and receive help from U.S. advisers, weapons and air strikes. It is now unclear what will happen to those fighters after the U.S. troops withdraw, and whether the U.S. will continue to carry out air strikes in support of them.” See also, Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy to anti-ISIS coalition, resigns in protest of Trump’s decision on SyriaJohn Hudson, Ellen Nakashima, and Karen DeYoung, Saturday, 22 December 2018.

For Trump, ‘a War Every Day,’ Waged Increasingly AloneThe New York Times, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Saturday, 22 December 2018: “When President Trump grows frustrated with advisers during meetings, which is not an uncommon occurrence, he sits back in his chair, crosses his arms and scowls. Often he erupts. ‘Freaking idiots!’ he calls his aides. Except he uses a more pungent word than ‘freaking.’ For two years, Mr. Trump has waged war against his own government, convinced that people around him are fools. Angry that they resist his wishes, uninterested in the details of their briefings, he becomes especially agitated when they tell him he does not have the power to do what he wants, which makes him suspicious that they are secretly undermining him. Now, the president who once declared that ‘I alone can fix’ the system increasingly stands alone in a system that seems as broken as ever. The swirl of recent days — a government shutdownspiraling scandalstumbling stock marketsabrupt troop withdrawals and the resignation of his alienated defense secretary— has left the impression of a presidency at risk of spinning out of control.”


Sunday, 23 December 2018, Day 703:


Trump, Angry Over Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s Stinging Rebuke, Removes Him 2 Months EarlyThe New York Times, Helene Cooper and Katie Rogers, Sunday, 23 December 2018: “Less than two hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis went to the White House on Thursday to hand a resignation letter to President Trump, the president stood in the Oval Office and dictated a glowing tweet announcing that Mr. Mattis was retiring ‘with distinction’ at the end of February. But Mr. Trump had not read the letter. As became apparent to the president only after days of news coverage, a senior administration official said, Mr. Mattis had issued a stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump over his neglect of allies and tolerance of authoritarians. The president grew increasingly angry as he watched a parade of defense analysts go on television to extol Mr. Mattis’s bravery, another aide said, until he decided on Sunday that he had had enough. In a tweet later that morning, the president announced that he was removing Mr. Mattis from his post by Jan. 1, two months before the defense secretary had planned to depart. Mr. Trump said that Patrick M. Shanahan, Mr. Mattis’s deputy and a former Boeing executive, would serve as the acting defense secretary, praising him as ‘very talented’ and adding that ‘he will be great!’ Mr. Trump’s sudden announcement that he was firing a man who had already quit was the exclamation point to a tumultuous week at the Pentagon, where officials have been reeling from day after day of presidential tweets announcing changes in American military policy.” See also, Trump forces Defense Secretary Jim Mattis out two months early and names Patrick Shanahan acting defense secretaryThe Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Dan Lamothe, and Josh Dawsey, Sunday, 23 December 2018: “President Trump, who aides said has been seething about news coverage of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s pointed resignation letter, abruptly announced Sunday that he was removing Mattis two months before his planned departure and installing Patrick Shanahan as acting defense secretary. The move brings fresh instability to the Pentagon as it manages Trump’s sudden decisions to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who has been Mattis’s deputy at the Pentagon, will assume the top job in an acting capacity beginning Jan. 1. But a senior administration official said Trump plans to conduct a wide-ranging search for a permanent replacement and is interested in candidates from outside the administration.”

Stock Market Rout Has Trump Fixated on Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, The New York Times, Binyamin Appelbaum, Sunday, 23 December 2018: “President Trump has unabashedly hitched his political fortunes to a rising stock market. Now, with stock prices in retreat, he has become increasingly fixated on the idea that one man is to blame for the recent rout: Jerome H. Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve. After the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday, the fifth consecutive quarterly increase, Mr. Trump fretted to aides that Mr. Powell would ‘turn me into Hoover,’ a reference to the man who was president in the early years of the Great Depression. Mr. Trump has said choosing Mr. Powell for the Fed job last year was the worst mistake of his presidency, and he has asked aides whether he has the power to fire him. But the volatile stock market, which just posted its worst week since 2008, is falling in part because of Mr. Trump’s own policies, including an escalating trade war with China, a shutdown of the federal government and the fading effects of the $1.5 trillion tax cut Mr. Trump ushered in at the end of 2017. While the Fed’s rate increases have upset investors — who seem to have a darker view of economic growth than the central bank does — some analysts said Mr. Trump’s musings about the Fed would only exacerbate anxieties.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, Leader of the Supreme Court’s Conservative Majority, Fights the Perception That It Is Partisan, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 23 December 2018: “In his first 13 years on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s main challenge was trying to assemble five votes to move the court to the right, though there were only four reliably conservative justices. Now he faces a very different problem. With the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and his replacement by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the chief justice has the votes he needs on issues like abortion, racial discrimination, religion and voting. At the same time, he has taken Justice Kennedy’s place as the swing vote at the court’s ideological center, making him the most powerful chief justice in 80 years. But all of that new power comes at a dangerous time for the court, whose legitimacy depends on the public perception that it is not a partisan institution. ‘We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans,’ Chief Justice Roberts said in 2016, and he reiterated that position in an extraordinary rebuke of President Trump last month.”


Monday, 24 December 2018, Day 704:


Trump Renews Attack on the Federal Reserve as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Tries to Calm Markets, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Monday, 24 December 2018: “With stocks extending their slide Monday, President Trump took another swipe at the Federal Reserve, writing on Twitter that the ‘only problem our economy has is the Fed’ as he continued to blame the central bank for recent volatility in the financial markets. But Mr. Trump’s comments only exacerbated the sell-off on Wall Street, and stocks were on track for their worst year since 2008 and the largest December decline since the 1930s. The S&P 500 closed down 2.7 percent after a shortened trading session because of the Christmas holiday. The president’s latest shot at the Fed undercut efforts over the weekend by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Mick Mulvaney, the incoming chief of staff, to calm jittery investors and ease concerns that Mr. Trump might move to fire Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chairman.” See also, Markets stage one of worst Christmas Eves ever, closing down more than 600 points as Trump blames Fed for stock losses in a tweet, The Washington Post, Thomas Heath and Philip Rucker, Monday, 24 December 2018: “The Dow Jones industrial average followed its worst week in a decade with a 653-point drop Monday, and President Trump once again took to Twitter to interject himself into financial markets…. Monday’s decline comes amid a federal government shutdown and repeated attempts by Trump and members of his administration to steady nervous markets, including weekend phone calls to major U.S. banks from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.”

‘I am all alone’: An isolated Trump unleashes a storm of Yuletide gloom, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Monday, 24 December 2018: “The Christmas Eve grievances billowing from the White House on Monday formed a heavy cloud of Yuletide gloom. In his third straight day holed up inside the White House during the partial federal government shutdown that he initiated over his demand to construct a border wall, President Trump barked out his frustrations on Twitter: Democrats are hypocrites! The media makes up stories! Senators are wrong on foreign policy — and so is Defense Secretary Jim Mattis!”

‘Very telling’ that Trump didn’t know his own anti-ISIS point man, former official says, The Washington Post, Alex Horton and John Hudson, Monday, 24 December 2018: “In a May 2017 Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was flanked by perhaps the two most important U.S. officials coordinating the fight against the Islamic State. One was Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The other one was Brett McGurk, a State Department official whom Mattis introduced as ‘President Trump’s special envoy’ to the coalition battling the militant group. McGurk was tasked with coordinating international efforts, from NATO allies to militia groups, in the effort against Islamic State militants in the region…. ‘Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015,’ Trump said Saturday on Twitter. ‘Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!’ On Monday, The Post reported that McGurk never briefed or talked to Trump. McGurk was scheduled to leave in February, making his instant resignation symbolic. Trump’s tweet raised questions about his awareness of or interest in the intricate policies surrounding one of his cornerstone campaign promises — the defeat of the Islamic State, in which McGurk played a central role in Washington, Baghdad and elsewhere.”

Not a ‘Department of No.’ Patrick Shanahan, the Deputy Defense Secretary Who Will Replace Jim Mattis as Defense Secretary in January, Turns Trump’s Demands Into Policy. The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt, Monday, 24 December 2018: “When it was first announced last spring, President Trump’s proposal for a new Space Force was resisted by the Pentagon and ridiculed by late-night comics who envisioned Luke Skywalker in the military. But it found a champion in Patrick M. Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense who will soon become the Pentagon’s acting chief. ‘We are not the Department of No,’ Mr. Shanahan told Pentagon officials after Space Force was announced, arguing that it was a presidential priority and could help develop new military capabilities more quickly. ‘There is a vision, and it makes sense.’ Now, Mr. Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been thrust into the Pentagon’s top job at one of the department’s most tumultuous times in years. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who during his tenure pushed back on a number of White House requests, resigned last week in the wake of Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.”


Tuesday, 25 December 2018, Day 705:


8-Year-Old Migrant Child From Guatemala Dies in U.S. Custody, The New York Times, Miriam Jordan, Tuesday, 25 December 2018: “An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died in United States custody early Christmas Day, the second death of a child in detention at the southwest border in less than three weeks, raising questions about the ability of federal agents running the crowded migrant border facilities to care for those who fall ill. The number of migrant families and unaccompanied minors journeying over land to the United States has swelled in the last year. Migrants are usually transferred to facilities designed to hold adults after being arrested by federal authorities while attempting to enter the country illegally or after being processed at a port of entry. The boy, who has not been named, died just after midnight on Tuesday at a hospital in Alamogordo, N.M., where he and his father had been taken after a Border Patrol agent saw what appeared to be signs of sickness, according to United States Customs and Border Protection. His death follows that of a 7-year-old girl from the same country while also in the custody of the Border Patrol.”

Arms Sales to Saudis Leave American Fingerprints on Yemen’s Carnage, The New York Times, Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt, Tuesday, 25 December 2018: “American fingerprints are all over the air war in Yemen, where errant strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have killed more than 4,600 civilians, according to a monitoring group. In Washington, that toll has stoked impassioned debate about the pitfalls of America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who relies on American support to keep his warplanes in the air. Saudi Arabia entered the war in 2015, allying with the United Arab Emirates and a smattering of Yemeni factions with the goal of ousting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels from northern Yemen. Three years on, they have made little progress. At least 60,000 Yemenis have died in the war, and the country stands on the brink of a calamitous famine.”

Trump’s Christmas Message: ‘It’s a Disgrace What’s Happening,’ The New York Times, Katie Rogers and Emily Cochrane, Tuesday, 25 December 2018: “President Trump invited reporters into the Oval Office on Christmas morning to listen to him call military troops overseas. He then unleashed another demand for a border wall — a $5 billion price tag that has stalled the federal government through the holidays — and introduced a murky new claim that federal workers are happy to work for free until the wall is fully funded. ‘Many of those workers have said to me — communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘These federal workers want the wall.’ Mr. Trump described immigrants as criminals and human traffickers, and espoused plans for his wall. But he declined to answer questions that invited him to be more specific, especially on a contract he said was signed Monday to begin construction on a lengthy section of the barrier. Later Tuesday, the White House had no comment about a Border Patrol announcement that an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy had died in custody early on Christmas morning, raising new questions about the administration’s zero-tolerance policies on detained migrants. When asked about the living circumstances of the boy who died in custody, a White House spokesman called the death very sad, but officials declined further comment. When reached for comment about the situation, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman pointed to a public release on its website.”

Trump vows not to reopen federal government until wall funding is secured, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Lenny Bernstein, Tuesday, 25 December 2018: “President Trump said Tuesday that he intends to keep the federal government closed until he secures the desired funding from Congress for his promised border wall, and he cast doubt about the performance of Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell after a sharp downturn in U.S. stock markets. In an Oval Office appearance on  Christmas morning, Trump praised Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin despite the stock markets suffering their steepest Christmas Eve decline in decades but was more circumspect about his handpicked Fed chair.”


Wednesday, 26 December 2018, Day 706:


Trump’s Retreat on the Environment Is Affecting Communities Across the U.S., The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, John Branch, and Gabriella Demczuk, Wednesday, 26 December 2018: “In just two years, President Trump has unleashed a regulatory rollback, lobbied for and cheered on by industry, with little parallel in the past half-century. Mr. Trump enthusiastically promotes the changes as creating jobs, freeing business from the shackles of government and helping the economy grow. The trade-offs, while often out of public view, are real — frighteningly so, for some people — imperiling progress in cleaning up the air we breathe and the water we drink, and in some cases upending the very relationship with the environment around us. Since Mr. Trump took office, his approach on the environment has been to neutralize the most rigorous Obama-era restrictions, nearly 80 of which have been blocked, delayed or targeted for repeal, according to an analysis of data by The New York Times.” See also, The Real-Life Effects of Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation, The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, and John Branch, Wednesday, 26 December 2018.

Trump visits U.S. troops in Iraq for first trip to a conflict zone, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Paul Sonne, Wednesday, 26 December 2018: “President Trump greeted U.S. troops on an unannounced trip Wednesday to Iraq, where he defended his decision to withdraw forces from neighboring Syria and declared that the Islamic State is ‘very nearly defeated’ while making his first visit to a conflict zone as commander in chief. The president used his visit to al-Asad Air Base to amplify his call to draw down the U.S. presence in foreign wars and assert his personal influence over the military at a moment of tremendous turmoil at the Pentagon. After months of public pressure for him to spend time with troops deployed to conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia, Trump touched down at the joint U.S.-Iraqi base west of Baghdad after a secret flight from Washington.” See also, Trump Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq to See U.S. Troops, The New York Times, Annie Karni, Mark Landler and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Wednesday, 26 December 2018.

‘A Breaking Point’: Second Child’s Death Prompts New Procedures for Border Agency, The New York Times, Miriam Jordan, Wednesday, 26 December 2018: “A Guatemalan boy who died on Christmas Eve while in United States custody was moved among at least four crowded facilities at the border over the six days from his apprehension until his death. That chronology, provided by government officials, underscores how stretched the facilities and their staff are in handling the surge of Central American families reaching the southwest border, particularly minors. Kirstjen M. Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, acknowledged on Wednesday that the ‘dramatic increase’ had pushed the system to ‘a breaking point.’ She said she had ordered her agency to bolster medical screenings of children at the southwest border and had enlisted the medical corps of the United States Coast Guard to assist. The secretary also said that she would travel to the border this week to personally observe the screenings.”

Federal Workers, Some in ‘Panic Mode,’ Share Shutdown Fears on Social Media, The New York Times, Christina Caron and Mihir Zaveri, Wednesday, 26 December 2018: “As the government shutdown stretched into its fifth day on Wednesday, federal employees and contract workers across the country described a holiday season marred by increasing financial worries. Some 800,000 federal employees have either been furloughed or will continue to work without pay during the partial shutdown, and it’s unclear how long it will last. Twitter became a platform for them to share growing anxieties and fears, using the hashtag #ShutdownStories.”

Did a Queens Podiatrist Help Donald Trump Avoid Vietnam? The New York Times, Steve Eder, Wednesday, 26 December 2018: “In the fall of 1968, Donald J. Trump received a timely diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels that led to his medical exemption from the military during Vietnam. For 50 years, the details of how the exemption came about, and who made the diagnosis, have remained a mystery, with Mr. Trump himself saying during the presidential campaign that he could not recall who had signed off on the medical documentation. Now a possible explanation has emerged about the documentation. It involves a foot doctor in Queens who rented his office from Mr. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, and a suggestion that the diagnosis was granted as a courtesy to the elder Mr. Trump.”

LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman Apologizes for Deception in Alabama Senate Race, The New York Times, Scott Shane, Wednesday, 26 December 2018: “Reid Hoffman, the tech billionaire whose money was spent on Russian-style social media deception in a Senate race last year, apologized on Wednesday, saying in a statement that he had not approved the operation and did not support such tactics in American politics. Mr. Hoffman said he had no idea that political operatives whose work he had financed had used fakery on Facebook and Twitter in the special Senate election a year ago in Alabama. But he had an obligation to track how his money was spent, he said, and he promised to exercise more care in the future. ‘I categorically disavow the use of misinformation to sway an election,’ said Mr. Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent figure at the intersection of Silicon Valley and Democratic politics. He said he had financed ‘organizations trying to re-establish civic, truth-focused discourse’ and was ’embarrassed’ to learn his money had been spent on disinformation. The New York Times and The Washington Post reported last week that $100,000 from Mr. Hoffman was spent on a deceptive social media campaign to aid Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, who barely defeated the Republican, Roy Moore.”


Thursday, 27 December 2018, Day 707:


Trump’s visit to Iraq prompts concerns about politicization of the military, The Washington Post, Paul Sonne and Philip Rucker, Thursday, 27 December 2018: “A day after President Trump’s surprise visit to American forces in Iraq and Germany, questions persisted about whether he had jeopardized the political neutrality of the U.S. military by leveling partisan attacks and signing red ‘Make America Great Again’ hats for the troops. The president’s behavior — out of step with that of his predecessors — highlighted the struggle Pentagon leaders face in navigating an avowedly apolitical military through a hyperpartisan era in U.S. politics, particularly under a commander in chief unafraid of breaking with established norms.” See also, Trump Crossed Political Line in Visit to Troops in Iraq and Germany, Critics Say, The New York Times, Annie Karni, Thursday, 27 December 2018: “During his surprise visit to American troops in Iraq and Germany this week, President Trump singled out red ‘Make America Great Again’ caps in a sea of military fatigues, signed a ‘Trump 2020’ patch and accused Representative Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats of being weak on border security. Now the president is facing accusations that he was playing politics with the military.”

El Paso, Texas, Is on Edge After a Child’s Death and the Release of Hundreds of MigrantsThe New York Times, Simon Romero, Thursday, 27 December 2018: “The death this week of a second Guatemalan child in United States custody and the unusual release of hundreds of asylum seekers in downtown El Paso have put officials in this border city on edge. Shelters, they said, are already overwhelmed in their ability to take in the migrants. The release of dozens of families in a city park on Christmas Day stands in sharp contrast to the past, when immigration officials coordinated such moves with a network of shelters that have been assisting refugees for decades. Along with the deaths of two detained migrant children in the last three weeks, the abrupt release has a web of organizations assisting migrants on both sides of the border concerned that more people could fall ill. The leaders of organizations assisting immigrants are questioning why federal officials released the asylum seekers at a time when President Trump was criticizing Democrats over their resistance to funding a border wall. Some immigration advocates argued that the administration’s policies are effectively making thousands of Central American asylum seekers pawns in the standoff in Washington. ‘Frankly, this is a manufactured crisis placing innocent children at risk of death,’ said Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights.”

With No Votes Scheduled, a Government Shutdown Will Greet the Democratic House, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, Thursday, 27 December 2018: “Republican leaders gave up hope on Thursday of reopening the government before the new year, leaving the border wall impasse to House Democrats as they assume the majority next week — and presenting Representative Nancy Pelosi with her first major challenge as speaker. House Democrats, who take control on Wednesday, are weighing three approaches to getting funds flowing, none of which would include additional money for President Trump’s proposed wall along the southwestern border. Whichever path they choose, party leaders said they would vote promptly on Jan. 3, hoping to project the image of Democrats as a steadying hand in Washington even as Republicans try to blame Ms. Pelosi and her party for the shutdown and lax border control. ‘We will vote swiftly to reopen government and show that Democrats will govern responsibly in stark contrast to this chaotic White House,’ Ms. Pelosi said in a statement. Ms. Pelosi is determined to prevent the shutdown brinkmanship from interfering with the Democrats’ assumption of power and her ceremony-soaked return to the speakership. But it appeared almost certain that the careful rollout of Democrats’ legislative agenda — including a sweeping anticorruption and voting rights bill — would be at least partly eclipsed by the funding crisis.” See also, Congress punts shutdown into new year when Democrats will retake the House of Representatives, The Washington Post, Erica Werner, Paul Kane, and Felicia Sonmez, Thursday, 27 December 2018: “Congress effectively gave up Thursday on breaking the impasse over President Trump’s demands for border-wall funding, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown will stretch into at least the start of the new year, when Democrats retake control of the House. Trump retreated from public view, hurling insults at Democrats over Twitter, as the House and the Senate convened for just minutes before gaveling closed until next week. During the brief session in the House, Republicans shot down a Democratic attempt to vote on legislation to reopen the government.”