Trump and his staff’s refusal to wear a face mask is a catastrophe

“On Monday, we learned White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. McEnany — and others in the White House cluster — failed to follow public health guidelines and quarantine, though she had been exposed to colleagues confirmed to have Covid-19.

She also briefed reporters twice — on Friday and Sunday — without wearing a mask, putting them at risk of the virus.

McEnany joins a list of at least 20 people in the White House cluster — including two of McEnany’s aides, White House staff, journalists, Congress members, and others — who’ve tested positive after Trump and first lady Melania Trump announced they tested positive on Friday. White House aide Hope Hicks, who had traveled with the president earlier in the week, also tested positive and was reportedly experiencing symptoms Wednesday.”

“the president and his staff’s failure to consistently wear a face mask while in close contact with colleagues and reporters in the White House and in public settings — the guidance of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — put them at higher risk for infection and of spreading the virus to others, since asymptomatic people can transmit the virus.”

Trump Pushed To Condemn White Nationalist Proud Boys, Instead Tells Them ‘Stand Back and Stand By’

“Biden was pressed (as he has been this summer) to disavow violence and rioting by antifa protesters. Biden did so, saying “Violence is never appropriate.”

Host and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace then noted that Trump has been criticized repeatedly for refusing to denounce the violence that comes from white nationalists at some of these protests. Wallace asked Trump, “Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups to say they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of the cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?”

Trump said, “Sure, I’m willing to do that, but I would say, almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing.” After demanding from Wallace specific names of groups he should condemn, Biden and Wallace settled on the Proud Boys. Trump responded not with condemnation but by saying “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” Then he veered the discussion immediately toward antifa violence, saying “I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”

That’s not a condemnation. Trump still, unlike Biden, seems unable to repudiate violence from people who support him.”

“Regardless of the president’s intent, the Telegram account for the Proud Boys reportedly immediately made a mockup a logo with “Stand Back” and “Stand By” as text, suggesting that the message they received is to wait for potential action. The Daily Beast reports that Proud Boys leader Joe Briggs wrote on Parler that in reality, “Trump basically said to go fuck them up. This makes me so happy.””

“given a chance to more carefully frame a statement, Trump was much more clear at telling the Proud Boys to “stand down and let law enforcement do their work,” according to Bloomberg’s White House reporter”

““They have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work,” Trump says of Proud Boys, adding “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are.””

Trump’s dark National Archives speech was white resentment run amok

“The United States of America, of course, was founded with slavery at the core of its socioeconomic system. Conversation about slavery’s foundational role in the US has been reinvigorated by the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which, as J. Brian Charles wrote for Vox, “marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African slaves to Virginia” by seeking “to reframe the country’s thinking about slavery and how intertwined the practice of slavery has been in shaping the nation.” (Trump’s “1776 Commission” is meant to allude to the 1619 Project, which Trump has railed against.)

Even after slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws made Black people second-class citizens in much of the country. Today, Black Americans have to deal with voter suppression efforts aimed at making it difficult to them to vote in areas where their votes threaten Republican control.

This legacy of racism has tangible consequences. Black Americans have lower life expectancies and make less than whites, even adjusted for education. (And adjusting for education is important, because in this area as well Blacks fare worse than whites.)

Black Americans are also far more likely, per capita, to be victims of police violence than White Americans. This disparity in particular became a major topic of public attention this summer as protests erupted following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and more recently the shooting of Jacob Blake.

But instead of even paying lip service to structural racism, Trump has consistently denied that such a thing exists. In a July interview with CBS, for instance, Trump responded to a straightforward question about why he thinks Black people continue to be killed by police by lashing out — at the questioner.

“And so are white people. So are white people,” Trump said. “What a terrible question to ask.””

The one thing Democrats can do to stop Trump from replacing Justice Ginsburg

“The Constitution provides that there must be a Supreme Court, but it does not set the number of justices — that number is set by Congress. The Judiciary Act of 1789 originally established a six-justice Court, and this number vacillated considerably during the nation’s first century. The number of justices briefly grew to 10 during the Lincoln administration, before finally settling at nine under President Ulysses S. Grant.

If Democrats control the White House and the Congress, in other words, they can pass a law adding seats to the Supreme Court. If Biden is president, he could then quickly fill them (with the consent of the Senate). And four new seats could give Court a Democratic-controlled majority, despite another Trump pick.

It’s a risky play. At the height of his popularity, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed expanding the size of the Supreme Court to 15 in order to neutralize five reactionary justices who frequently undercut the New Deal. It did not end well for him. Many historians cite the court-packing plan as the event that shattered Roosevelt’s political coalition and left him unable to pass liberal bills through Congress.

But these are very different times. In 1937, when Roosevelt proposed packing the Court, every one of the Court’s nine justices could claim that they got there fair and square. No one was on the Supreme Court because one political party invented a fake rule, applied it harshly to a president they loathed, and then immediately scrapped that rule when it was inconvenient.

Trump’s two previous Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, also share a dubious distinction. They are the only members of the Supreme Court in history to be nominated by a president who lost the popular vote and confirmed by a bloc of senators who represent less than half of the country. If Trump fills the Ginsburg seat, fully one-third of the Court will be controlled by judges with no democratic legitimacy.”

Trump Says He Downplayed the Coronavirus Threat To Avoid ‘Panic.’ That Helps Explain His Policy Failures.

“President Donald Trump has admitted in a series of interviews with veteran journalist Bob Woodward that he downplayed the threat of COVID-19 despite knowing that it would cause considerable harm.

On February 7, Trump emphasized that the novel coronavirus was “deadly stuff.”

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said on a taped call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

Contrast that with Trump’s remarks later that month: “The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year,” he said at a briefing on February 26. “That was shocking to me. And so far if you look at what we have with the 15 people, and they are recovering.””

“According to Trump, the move was strategic. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward mid-March. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.””

“it remains unclear how lying to the American public and deliberately propagating wrong information, even if it cultivates some false sense of security, is a winning strategy. Just last month, the president said that just 9,000 people had died from COVID-19.

The short-sightedness of such an approach is reflected not only in Trump’s public statements but also in how he approached the virus from a policy perspective in its nascent stages.

Consider Trump’s March 13 announcement that he would pave the way for a public-private partnership to create a robust testing program, as private labs were having difficulty navigating burdensome Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The decision was a good one but could have been made earlier had Trump chosen to be frank with the American people.”

“Also in February, Trump privately admitted to Woodward that the virus would pose a menacing threat. But the president did not shepherd the Roche test, which is particularly efficient at screening for the virus, through FDA approval until that March 13 press conference, hamstringing the country’s ability to get ahead of the problem.”

We now know what Trump was trying to hide by holding back his tax returns

“The Times story makes clear the supposedly wealthy president often paid no income taxes while his businesses regularly lost vast sums of money, and he himself was on the hook for increasing sums in loans. All of that is politically damaging enough to Trump’s image, and likely a sufficient reason to work hard to keep the tax returns secret.

But there’s likely another reason behind Trump’s reticence — because reporters would scour his returns for legally dubious claims, and put the pieces together to how he was trying to snooker the IRS.

That’s just what ended up happening here. For example, Buettner, Craig, and McIntire sussed out that mysterious write-offs for consulting fees on certain Trump projects matched the amounts of payments to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. And there’s far more in the Times’s excellent piece.

One major theme of the Times piece is that the IRS audit of Trump is extremely serious, and that he could end up owing the US government more than $100 million. So reporters’ scrutiny of his tax returns might not just be politically problematic for Trump — they could also be financially and legally problematic.”

“Trump did indeed pay zero in income taxes from 2011 to 2014, and a paltry $750 in 2016 and 2017. He pulled this off by claiming that his businesses lost massive amounts of money. He has $421 million in debt due in the next few years, and he could owe $100 million more to the US government if he loses his audit battle with the IRS.”

“the specific reason Trump paid no taxes is embarrassing — because his businesses lost tons of money. (At least, that’s what he claims; keep in mind that the tax return information is his representation of his businesses to the IRS.)

To be clear, some parts of Trump’s business really do make money — for instance, The Apprentice sent cash pouring in, and Trump Tower is profitable. But Trump avoids paying taxes on these profits because he’s claimed such massive losses from other parts of his business empire.”

“there’s clearly some legally questionable stuff in there.

For instance, the records obtained by Buettner, Craig, and McIntire show that Trump wrote off $26 million in supposed consulting fees as a business expense between 2011 and 2018. But the reporters took the added step of uncovering where some of that money was going — and they figured out that some of those write-offs matched payments to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, as revealed on her own financial disclosure forms.

Ivanka was an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, not some outside consultant. And sources told the Times that there were no outside consultants involved in certain projects for which Trump’s businesses wrote off consulting fees.

The Times story also mentions other questionable practices — Trump dubbed a Westchester, New York, mansion an “investment property” so he could write off property taxes on it, but his son Eric Trump called it “our compound.” The Trump Organization also wrote off Donald Trump Jr.’s legal fees for the lawyer who represented him in the Russia investigation.”

Bob Woodward’s new book Rage, and the controversies around it, explained

“In early February, Trump privately told Woodward that the new coronavirus was “more deadly” than the flu, and that it “goes through air” — as he was publicly suggesting that the virus was similar to the flu. Then, as the virus ravaged New York City in mid-March, Trump told Woodward that he had wanted to “play it down.””

“Woodward rose to fame as half of the Washington Post’s “Woodward and Bernstein” reporting duo that helped expose the Nixon administration’s Watergate cover-up — triggering a scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation. But in recent decades, Woodward’s main reporting interest has been using his Washington connections to report and write books about what’s going on in the highest levels of the US government, especially the presidency. (He has written two books on the Clinton administration, four on the George W. Bush administration, two on the Obama administration, and now two on Trump.)
The books have tried to put readers “in the room,” depicting what happens behind closed doors. To do that, Woodward relies on the cooperation and anonymized accounts of top-level government officials. He then presents a narrative, based on sources and sometimes documents, in an omniscient style, but largely focused on certain characters.”

“his critics have long argued that his accounts, far from being neutral, are heavily skewed toward his major sources’ points of view and priorities, and portray those who didn’t talk as ciphers or villains. The reality is a bit more nuanced (talking a lot doesn’t guarantee you a good portrayal, as Trump found here), but his readers are absolutely getting a particular version of what happened, as told by particular people.”

“On February 7, Trump called Woodward and surprisingly brought up the coronavirus when there were few confirmed cases in the US, and when impeachment had been dominating the news. Trump opened by saying that there was “a little bit of an interesting setback with the virus going on in China,” and that he’d spoken with President Xi Jinping the previous night.

“We were talking mostly about the virus, and I think he’s gonna have it in good shape, but it’s a very tricky situation,” Trump said. “It goes through air, Bob, that’s always tougher than the touch. … You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.”

He continued: “That’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Apparently speaking about mortality rates, he says: “This is 5 percent versus 1 percent and less than 1 percent. You know? So, this is deadly stuff.” However, he went on to say that he thinks the Chinese have it under control, and that “I think that that goes away in two months with the heat,” because “as it gets hotter that tends to kill the virus.”

Here, and notably early, Trump is saying (in private) both that the virus can spread through the air and that it’s very deadly and dangerous. This is quite different from what he was saying in public. In the coming weeks, Trump would publicly say the virus was similar to the flu, and would argue that mortality rates wouldn’t be so high.

Then, in another conversation with Woodward on March 19 — once New York City was reeling from the virus, the country had begun to shut down, and Trump’s public commentary had become more pessimistic — Woodward asked Trump when his thinking on the seriousness of the threat had changed. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.””

“It’s also possible that Trump was misled by the Washington conventional wisdom that people who talk to Woodward get rosier portrayals in his books. There’s some truth to that, but the problem is that Trump didn’t really cooperate in the way Woodward prefers — by walking through his decisions and mentality at key moments in an orderly way, to provide building blocks for the book’s narrative.
Instead, Trump repeatedly ignored Woodward’s specific questions to instead talk about whatever he wanted. For instance, Woodward asked him what he was thinking at the Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un, and Trump said there were a lot of cameras there. Woodward pleaded repeatedly that this would be for “the serious history,” but Trump was unmoved. “He was on his track and he would stay there,” Woodward writes.

The overall effect is that Trump hijacks the book as soon as he starts talking. As a result, much of the book’s second half is an authentic portrait of what it’s like to have a rolling, months-long conversation with Donald Trump: scattershot, tedious, frustrating, and occasionally outrageous.”

Trump Administration Formally Bans TikTok, WeChat Apps from Online Stores in U.S.

“The U.S. Department of Commerce today announced that it will, as threatened, implement a ban on the TikTok and WeChat apps, thus censoring tools Americans use to communicate each other while blaming it all on China’s Communist rule.

As of Sunday, online mobile or app stores will not be able to distribute or update either WeChat or Tiktok. WeChat will further be banned from processing payments within the United States. This enacts President Donald Trump’s August executive orders, in which he claimed that the two apps threaten the United States due to their parent company’s ties to the Chinese government.”