The Worm Turns

Trump Skewers Bannon, After Bannon Skewers Trump’s Child

Although we’re not sure one day they won’t kiss and make up

At the White House. Almost exactly one year ago.


Here’s how it went down:

• A reporter releases an unflattering article about Trump and his family, with colorful, damning quotes from ex-consigliere Steve Bannon.

• In this case, it’s a piece by Michael Wolff in New York Magazine (which is an excerpt from a book), and a story in the Guardian about Wolff’s story that contains additional details.

According to the New York Times, Wolff had surprisingly free access to the White House at one point, spending a lot of time with Bannon, and Trump apparently also knew he was hanging around.

• Among the things Wolff quotes Bannon as saying is that when Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort sat down for a now widely-reported meet-up with Russians who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton: “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” And he contends “They’re going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV”.


Trump, Sr. responds by tearing into Bannon personally in a furious, yet carefully worded letter, which we’ve linked to here. (In which Trump simultaneously, of course, compliments himself). Slightly more poetic than once-Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci’s description of Bannon’s acrobatic attempts at self-gratification, but along those same lines. A few highlights:

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”

“Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.”

“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well.”

• One thing a lot of the reporting is losing sight of is that Trump does not really directly refute any of the things Bannon is quoted as saying about him or his family. He leaves that up to his lawyers, who late last night delivered a “cease and desist” letter to Bannon, and to his White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

• All-in-all, Trump’s tactic is familiar, yet it’s getting uncomfortably frequent: deny anybody has any meaningful connection to you at all who poses a threat to you, even if they were your Campaign Chairman or Chief Strategist or someone you put on the National Security Council. As satirical columnist Alexandra Petri puts it in the Washington Post: “The Trump White House was apparently staffed entirely by invisible men, nobodies and people who may have gotten coffee one or two times. The campaign was a ghost ship, manned by no human hand, that drifted into port with Trump strapped to the mast.”

Because Trump and Bannon don’t directly contradict each other’s “facts”, both of them could be speaking some version of the truth, or neither. It’s hard to make a decision about credibility for either of these guys, but seeing these things play out in front of us, as we all have, we do tend to believe both these documents are as “true” representations as we’re going to get, at least of the individuals presenting their points of view.

What we found most interesting in Wolff’s article was how stingy the “self-funded” Trump was about putting his own money into his campaign, and how he had to be poked and prodded by Bannon and Jared Kushner into funding it at all, and even then with a promise that he’d get paid back when they found other sources of funds. And also because they convinced him his “victory is more than likely”.

Which is also why we still don’t agree with is Wolff’s central contention that Trump never wanted to win. He may not have seen himself getting across that line. But we sincerely believe deep down, he did. (Just as we equally sincerely believe Melania absolutely did not want this life). But that’s just us…


The good old days…



Manafort’s “Hail Mary” Legal Move

Meanwhile, another person whom Trump says he had very little to do with even though he was the President’s Campaign Manager for months, Paul Manafort, is challenging Special Counsel Robert Mueller in court, in what’s being represented as a long-shot legal maneuver.


Interestingly, Manafort isn’t exactly contending the charges against him aren’t true, just that they have nothing to do with the Trump campaign, so should be beyond the reach of Mueller’s investigation.

Which of course leads to the question: If Manafort had these skeletons in his closet, why did he get mixed up in the Trump campaign in the first place? Seems like an unnecessary risk if you’ve got these very cushy Eastern European money laundering deals.



Trump Does Away With What Was Once One Of His Favorite Pet Projects

That’s his Voter Fraud Commission, officially called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, co-chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Trump still insists he would’ve won the popular vote if not for “illegals” voting and people being “bused in” to states like New Hampshire, even though no one has proven either of those things actually happened. That’s what this Commission was supposed to do.

The White House says while it still believes widespread voter fraud did occur, it contends the Commission’s effectiveness was constrained by states refusing to cooperate in turning over voting records. Most famously, the Secretary of State of deep red Mississippi, Delbert Hosemann telling it to “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico“.

We also believe we should not underestimate the impact Democrat Matt Dunlap, the Secretary of State of Maine had on the panel. While absorbing criticism from Liberals for agreeing to participate in the first place, his loud opposition to the secretive methods of the commission (and an eventual lawsuit) appears to be a major factor in the Commission’s demise. But according to the Washington Post, Dunlap says he’s alarmed, not relieved by the move to dissolve the panel, especially since the Trump Administration has already announced the Department of Homeland Security will pick up its work.



Trump, Who Hates Protests By Americans (Pro Football Players For Instance), Loves Protests By Iranians

Tweeting somewhat cryptically:

What exactly does he have in mind? An armed attack? Some strongly worded Tweets? With Trump it could be anything. Or nothing. It’s hard to imagine protesters taking Trump’s pledge very seriously, especially since he’s so vague. On the other hand, it’s likely to incense Iran’s leadership even more, and while there’s already a mutual hate-club (because Trump has squarely sided with Iran’s greatest rival, Saudi Arabia, because somehow in Trump’s mind Iran=Obama, since the former President had the gall to do a deal with them) it could lead to more Iranian protesters (you know, they ones that Trump “respects”) getting killed. The death toll since political protests began across Iran is more than 20



More Details About Unilateral Contact Between North And South Korea

And a cool graphic from South Korean news service Yonhap, envisioning what a sit-down would look like:

It’s fascinating to us the way this story is being reported in South Korea, down to the most minute details. For instance, the account of what was actually said on the initial call between North and South, which went something like this:

South Korea: “Do you need to notify us of anything in this call”.

North Korea: “No. If there is something to notify, we will contact you”.

Also (and we’d forgotten this), there’s a 30 minute time difference between North and South Korea. It’s one of those time differences set purely for political purposes: just to be different than a geographically close competitor or rival. (There’s a similar small time difference between India and Pakistan, and several other places). That’s allowing South Korea to explain away the fact that North Korea did not answer South Korea’s first phone call, and instead insisted on initiating the conversation itself: it’s because the South wasn’t thinking about the time difference and placed its call to the north half an hour before business hours there. Of course!



East Coast: Stay Warm! Stay Safe!

This is what you’re already experiencing or about to experience:

And Wired explains why it’s so unusual. If you’re into scientific breakdowns of exactly what’s happening atmospherically, here’s a good one from the National Weather Service.