Week Three – Readings

Week Three – Index

[NB. This non-exhaustive list covers 16 days. Subsequent posts will only cover 7, and will hopefully be a whole lot shorter.]

In his first sixteen days, President Trump has:

  • doggedly exaggerated the size of inaugural crowds, most notably at the CIA in front of memorial to slain officers;
  • claimed that, despite an absence of any evidence, between 3 and 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election, thus costing him the popular vote;
  • signed an executive order reinstating the “Mexico City Policy” which bans funds to international NGOs that provide or discuss abortion services;
  • instituted a federal hiring freeze;
  • taken fewer security briefings than previous presidents;
  • signed an order withdrawing the US from the Trans Pacific Partnership (which had not yet been approved by Congress regardless);
  • ordered that construction on the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines recommence;
  • claimed that waterboarding works;
  • nominated Mick Mulvaney as budget director; Mulvaney has advocated for Medicare and Social Security cuts, as well as partial privatization of Medicare;
  • signed an executive order to begin construction on a wall between the US and Mexico, and got into a war of words with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about who would pay for it, leading to the cancellation of Peña Nieto’s imminent visit; former Mexican president Vicente Fox has instigated his own Twitter war with Trump–“America, remember who’s going to pay for that #fuckingwall: it’s you!”;
  • ordered the cessation of funding to sanctuary cities, which would mostly impact Homeland Security and the Justice Department funds;
  • suggested the wall would be paid by a 20% import tax on Mexican goods, thus effectively transferring the cost of the wall to Americans;
  • hosted UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who forced him to reaffirm his support for NATO and whose hand-holding revealed to the world that he may have a fear of going down stairs;
  • signed an executive order banning all travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, thus throwing airports into chaos, catalyzing widespread protests, possibly violating the Geneva Convention, presumably violating various immigration statutes, violating many people’s rights as permanent residents, pissing off various world leaders as well as other Republicans, and catalyzing a phone call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which she apparently explained the Geneva Convention to the President;
  • reshuffled the National Security Council, demoting the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and elevating white supremacist Steve Bannon to permanent membership;
  • had a friendly call with Russian President Vladimir Putin;
  • alienated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, one of America’s staunchest allies;
  • ordered his administration to create a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS (magic!);
  • ordered a raid in Yemen which killed several civilians and a Navy SEAL;
  • fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for stating that her office will not defend Trump’s travel ban;
  • authorized a likely purge of several senior members at the State Department;
  • as America’s night-club bouncer, ordered that for every regulation the executive branch proposes, two others must be repealed;
  • in a suspenseful prime-time broadcast á la reality t.v., nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, reputed to be more conservative than Scalia, to the Supreme Court;
  • placed Iran “on notice,” leading to new sanctions being issued;
  • discussed Celebrity Apprentice’s low ratings and the performance of host Arnold Schwarzenegger at the National Prayer Breakfast;
  • signed deregulatory executive orders to halt implementation of the Fiduciary Rule, which orders investment advisors to work in their clients’ best interest, and to “review” Dodd-Frank financial regulations;
  • made a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not mention Jewish people;
  • gives remarks a Black History Month event that show little knowledge of black history, that mostly refer to himself, and that suggest he thinks that Frederick Douglass may still be alive;
  • tweeted against the justice system and particularly the “so-called” judge in Seattle who halted his immigration ban, opening the doors to further Constitutional crisis;
  • bought tasteful gold curtains for the Oval Office.

Other notable incidents:

  • Trump advisor and surrogate Kellyanne Conway has said that Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s fabricated numbers of inaugural crowd size (“the most watched inauguration ever”) were merely “alternative facts,” rather than lies;
  • the March for Life attracted a thousands to the mall to hear speakers that included VP Pence;
  • the House of Representatives laid the groundwork for a sell-off of 640 million acres of federal public lands;
  • Steve Bannon told the press to “shut up and listen” and called them the “opposition”;
  • Dr. Ben Carson awaits a floor vote for his nomination as Secretary to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, despite his lack of experience with HUD issues–Trump appears to equate “urban” with “black people” and Dr. Carson is black;
  • would-be head of the EPA Scott Pruitt, who has been sued many times by the agency he now stands to lead, was confirmed by Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and awaits floor vote;
  • Department of Health and Human Services nominee Representative Tom Price, who has sought to convert Medicare into a voucher program, was approved by the Senate Finance Committee and awaits a floor vote;
  • Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas and presidential candidate who forgot that he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy (“Ooops.”), approved by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and awaits floor vote;
  • former oil exec and partner to Russian investments Rex Tillerson confirmed as Secretary of State;
  • Department of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder disclosed that he employed an undocumented immigrant as a maid and failed to pay taxes for her;
  • Senator Jeff Sessions, whose career has been pockmarked by discrimination and racism, approved by Senate Judiciary Committee to Attorney General and awaits floor vote;
  • border officials were slow to respond to the federal judge’s order halting the deportation of visa holders, thus triggering fear of a constitutional crisis;
  • various agencies, including the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the USDA, and the Department of Transportation received gag orders shortly after the inauguration, although it is not without precedent;
  • the WhiteHouse.gov temporarily deleted the judiciary from its list of branches of government;
  • Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah introduces the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act (HR 622), which would remove the Bureau of Land Management’s and US Forest Service’s law enforcement capacity;
  • Kellyanne Conway said she “ripped [the press] a new one”;
  • in response to a dissent letter signed by over 1000 State Department diplomats and employees, Press Secretary Spicer said that “they should either get with the program or they can go”;
  • a white supremacist killed six and wounded nineteen at a mosque in Quebec;
  • a second mosque in Texas was burned down, leading a nearby Jewish synagogue to offer refuge to the mosque’s community;
  • Oleg Erovinkin, a reported source for an MI6 dossier that suggested Trump would receive 19% of Russian oil company Rosneft if sanctions were lifted against Russian, was found assassinated;
  • Kellyanne Conway cited the Bowling Green Massacre–an entirely fabricated terrorist incident–as proof the immigration ban is necessary, thus leading to endless trolling.

Finally, in good news:

  • the Women’s March drew over four million people worldwide, across every continent;
  • the VA was granted an exemption from the federal hiring freeze;
  • greencard holders, many dual citizens, and Iraqis who worked with the US military were granted exemptions from Trump’s immigration halt;
  • a coalition of ethicists and Constitutional scholars filed a lawsuit claiming Trump’s violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution;
  • 16 state attorneys general issued joint statement protesting immigration ban: “As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful Executive Order.”
  • lawyers and translators descended en masse to airports to assist refugees and immigrants facing illegal detention;
  • the ACLU racked up $24.1 million in online donations in one weekend as a result of Trump’s Muslim ban (more than six times its annual online fundraising average);
  • a federal judge issued a stay on deporting valid visa holders;
  • President Obama has said that the Muslim ban places “American values…at stake”;
  • the White House abandoned a plan to cancel ACA enrollment advertising;
  • a federal judge in Seattle halts Trumps executive order immediately, saying that he has a duty to ensure orders are based on “fact, not fiction”;
  • immigrants and refugees begin travel again;
  • Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham have been outspoken against the immigration ban;
  • an open letter from the presidents of 48 prominent universities reject Trump’s immigration ban;
  • after rumors and protests, public resources on climate change remain intact on the EPA and DOE websites;
  • Republicans have backed down from a plan to gut the Congressional Ethics Office;
  • Representative Jason Chaffetz withdraws a plan to sell 3.3million acres of public land;  plan to sell off public lands has been delayed;
  • boycotts have led to Nordstrom and many other retailers dropping Trump brand products, to advertisers dropping their contracts with Breitbart News, and to Uber’s CEO dropping off of a Trump advisory council and pledging $3m to assist Uber’s drivers with immigration-related legal defense;
  • water protectors’ protests against DAPL continue;
  • two Republican senators have come out against Betsy DeVos, who moves ever closer to nomination, as possible Secretary of Education;
  • and so, so much more.


Week Two

1. Establishing some baseline facts.

2. Now, months, or years in, here is what we may face.

3. Bannon on the Security Council: the basic problem.

4. And this is where we start looking back to Weimar Germany, and looking forward to an era in which rules and protocols are constantly being tested for weaknesses and undermined by executive overreach.

5. Self-care in the resistance, essential for those of us who are already drinking too much and sleeping too little.

6. “A Clarifying Moment in American History”: an essential read–the kind of piece to which one should periodically return.

7. And watch this. This Oscar-nominated short film shows who we are turning away. https://nyti.ms/2cWw9Uk