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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: mick mulvaney

There's No Pretending That Kevin McCarthy Is 'Mainstream' Or 'Moderate'

With Rep. Kevin McCarthy finally winning a ballot for House speaker, after so many humiliating delays, it is important to understand why his "victory" no longer matters much and probably never did. The Beltway narrative that positions him as a symbol of "governing" and his erstwhile opponents as isolated agents of chaos is badly mistaken.

The Republican Party, at least as constituted in the House of Representatives, is today a vector of nihilism. Its stated objectives, articulated by both supporters and opponents of its current leadership, are hostile to democratic values and pose an ongoing threat to American security. Election deniers and coup supporters predominate, including "my Kevin," as Trump dubbed him.

No significant GOP faction can be described accurately as "moderate" or "mainstream" or even "conservative," although media outlets persist in using those familiar terms to frame them.

They're nearly all crazies now.

Even if real distinctions could once be drawn between those who steadfastly backed McCarthy and those who resisted him, they've been erased by his wholesale submission to his adversaries' demands. By awarding them unprecedented power over rules, votes, appropriations and even his own tenure, he has elevated a gang of hard-right yahoos into the ultimate congressional authority.

McCarthy's reign as speaker may be comically brief, but the chaos and peril that ensue will be just as damaging as if he had stepped aside for the likes of Jim Jordan or Andy Biggs. His weakness has emboldened the GOP's most deranged figures, who veer erratically between anarchy and authoritarianism — and who will continue to seek the spotlight they've enjoyed lately by any means available.

None of this is mitigated by the fact that McCarthy, once a slavish acolyte of former Speaker John Boehner, lacks any discernible beliefs, let alone firm convictions. His rise epitomizes the Republican abandonment of principle during the Trump era. The premise of his career has nothing to do with policy commitments or leadership qualities, resting solely on his skills as a smiling fundraiser and recruiter.

Unlike Boehner, who was booted from office for trying to control the far Right, McCarthy has rarely gotten in their way. That's why Mick Mulvaney, a founder of the House Freedom Caucus who played a major role in Boehner's ouster, has urged his former colleagues to stop fighting and accept the victory that a McCarthy speakership represents.

As Mulvaney noted in a recent op-ed endorsing McCarthy, this supposed "moderate" supports the loony Freedom Caucus agenda. He will eagerly emcee their clown show, replete with "investigations" of Hunter Biden, harassment of Dr. Anthony Fauci, attacks on federal law enforcement, attempts to justify the Jan. 6 insurrection, and an ongoing zeal to protect former President Donald Trump and his coup plotters from accountability.

What they will not do in any meaningful sense is govern.

Indeed, their principal objective is to make governing impossible. For years now, the sole aim of congressional Republicans under a Democratic presidency has been to win the next election — not to achieve legislative compromises for the good of the nation or even to ensure fiscal and administrative continuity, like a modern political party in any other country. Beginning with the Gingrich-led takeover of the House, the Republican attitude toward governance has been insurrectionary, meaning that they shun all cooperation, regardless of the destructive consequences.

That attitude was on display last month when the House considered legislation to avert a potentially ruinous railway strike. Even with many heartland Republicans warning that a strike would wreck the economy and harm their constituents severely, nearly two-thirds of the GOP caucus voted no — including Kevin McCarthy.

Now the House Republicans are poised to strike a historic blow against the United States by preventing an increase in the national debt ceiling — unless they are allowed to dictate destructive budget cuts. They are prepared to wreck the "full faith and credit" of the republic unless they can impose horrendous cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other vital programs that will also cause irreparable harm to the economy and the public.

McCarthy has signed up for that fanatical assault on the national interest. He is no more "mainstream" than his sidekick, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. It's time to stop pretending he is.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


Peter Navarro Excoriates Top Trump Aides In Grievance-Laden Memoir

Peter Navarro — former President Trump’s indicted ex-trade adviser — lambasts Trump’s chiefs of staff, from his “Cabinet of Clowns” to his “Motley Crue of Chiefs,” in his upcoming MAGA-themed book, titled Taking Back Trump’s America, as The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

Taking a cue from Trump himself, Navarro’s laid into his former White House colleagues, including all four of Trump’s former chiefs of staff, while remaining loyal to his ex-boss.

In an excerpt of the forthcoming insult-ridden book, obtained by the Beast, Navarro said three of Trump’s choices for chief of staff — Mark Meadows, Mick Mulvaney, and John Kelly — were competing for the title of “worst chief of staff in history.”

“You should normally expect a murderer’s row of highly polished media killers in the cabinet secretary pool,” Navarro wrote. “Regrettably, this was just not so in Trump Land.”

Navarro’s penchant for name-calling and right-wing conspiracy-peddling has held firm since his time in the White House, given that he is buddies with disgraced and thrice-indicted War Room podcast host Steve Bannon, who served as Trump's "chief strategist."

Like Bannon, Navarro couldn’t resist defying a subpoena demanding his cooperation in the House Select Committee’s January 6 investigation, which earned him a contempt of Congress criminal charge in March. Navarro was also sued by the government last month for refusing to hand over private emails he used to conduct public business during his time at the White House.

Navarro, the Justice Department said in its filing, “has refused to return any Presidential records that he retained absent a grant of immunity for the act of returning such documents,” according to the Washington Post.

Despite mounting troubles with law enforcement, Navarro has found time to settle scores with his ex-colleagues with a litany of excoriating descriptions, which he had often done on Bannon’s podcast, while seeking to turn a profit.

In his book, Navarro called former treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin a “media hound,” who “spoke like a robot”—“often with an uncomfortable nervous tic around the corners of his mouth”— and “got the most airtime,” per the Beast. Mnuchin, said Navarro, was an “uncomfortable cross between cringe-worthy and a Wall Street hack.”

Navarro described Alex Azar, the former Health and Human Services Secretary, as “always punctilious” and slammed three former cabinet members — Steve Hahn, FDA Commissioner; Robert Redfield, Centers for Disease Control director; and Francis Collins, who headed the National Institutes of Health.

He wrote that Hahn, Redfield, and Collins would, if given a chance, “throw POTUS under the bus even faster than Azar—as would other key officials like the insufferably pompous [former assistant secretary of health] Brett Giroir and of course, the king of stepping on White House messaging, Saint Fauci,” referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, then director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Bad as they all were, Navarro thought one White House figure deserved the “worst chief of staff” title. It was Meadows, he wrote, who had achieved that “distinction.'.

Yet Navarro wasn’t done. He tagged Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, “the wrong, small, and inexperienced man for a very big job”; second chief of staff John Kelly, “a trucker” recruited “to drive a Formula One car”; and Mick Mulvaney, the ex-president’s third chief of staff, a “smug” man with “an overabundance of both arrogance and hubris," whom Trump constantly trolled “so he never got comfortable in the job.”

“The more Mick begged,” Navarro jeered, “the more permanent his ‘acting chief’ status would become.”

At Issue, Navarro indicated, was Mulvaney’s failed attempt to dismiss questions about Trump’s reported pressure campaign on Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in an October 2020 press conference. “Get over it,” Mulvaney told reporters. “There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

”That single press conference was the beginning of the end for Mulvaney even as it underscored yet again the inability of the White House to dominate the news cycle,” Navarro said.

A representative for Trump stayed mum when asked for comment on Navarro’s allegations, as did representatives of Mnuchin, Meadows, and Kelly. The Beast said it couldn't reach representatives of Azar and Priebus for comment. But Mulvaney fired back with a stinging reference to an “imaginary” friend that made an appearance in one of Navarro’s old books.

“Peter Navarro used an imaginary friend to justify many of his economic hypotheses,” Mulvaney told the Beast

'Ludicrous, Complete Fiction': Ex-Officials Mock Trump Claims About Declassifying Papers

Several former Trump Administration officials have slammed assertions that former President Trump issued a “standing order” to declassify documents he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence.

After the FBI’s August 8 raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence — during which 11 sets of classified documents, including some labeled “top secret,” were seized — Trump’s team issued a statement that stated "a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them."

According to CNN, 18 former top Trump Administration officials — some of who the network didn’t identify to spare them Trump’s retaliation — said they didn’t hear of such an order during their time in the White House and that assertions of such an order were false.

Trump took to social media after the raid to insist that the documents at Mar-a-Lago were no longer classified.

Many of the officials who spoke to CNN laughed at the claims made by Trump and derided the notion of such a standing order as “laughable,” “foolish,” and “total nonsense.” A senior administration official, CNN said, called the claim “bullsh*t.”

"Nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given," said John Kelly, a former Trump White House chief of staff. "And I can't imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it."

Mick Mulvaney, another Trump chief of staff to speak to CNN, dismissed the notion, saying he wasn’t “aware of a general standing order” during his tenure.

“Official after official scoffed at the claim Trump had a standing order to declassify documents that left the Oval Office and were taken to the residence,” CNN noted in its report.

A senior White House official called the “standing order” claims “nonsense,” saying, "If that's true, where is the order with his signature on it? If that were the case, there would have been tremendous pushback from the Intel Community and [the Department of Defense], which would almost certainly have become known to Intel and Armed Services Committees on the Hill."

Security experts have also disputed the blanket claims of declassification emanating from within the circle of Trump’s allies, saying such an order would leave a paper trail and not “just be an idea in his head.”

“It can’t just be an idea in his head. Programs and officials would have been notified. There is no evidence they were,” David Laufman, former chief of the Justice Department's counterintelligence division, told CNN.

“The president is the ultimate classifier and de-classifier — but he can’t just wave a magic wand, and he can’t do it in secret,” Douglas London, a former CIA agent, told ABC News.

“If [Trump] and his allies are defending his handling of these documents by claiming that they’re no longer classified, they need to show the paper trail,” he added.

In a piece published by Lawfare, Jeh Johnson, a former Defense Department attorney and Obama Administration Homeland Security secretary, called Trump’s “standing order” claim “nothing short of laughable.”

"[P]art and parcel of any act of declassification is communicating that act to all others who possess the same information, across all federal agencies," Johnson wrote. "This point holds true regardless of whether the information exists in a document, an email, a power point presentation, and even in a government official's mental awareness. Otherwise, what would be the point of a legitimate declassification?"

Olivia Troye, former Vice President Mike Pence’s ex-homeland security adviser, called the blanket declassification claim “ludicrious” and said that "there would be a paper trail of this blanket authority being the case, and in two and a half years of working in national security in the White House, not once did I ever hear this discussed."

Rolling Stone reported on Thursday that FBI have been grilling several ex-Trump staffers to ascertain if anyone beside Trump was privy to the former President’s issuance of such a tall order.

However, the classification status of the documents seized by the FBI from Trump’s abode in Florida “doesn’t really matter, as it’s likely that Trump’s actions broke the law,” according to Truthout.

“What’s listed in the search warrant is fascinating both for what it includes and what it doesn’t include,” a former general counsel of the National Security Agency, Glen Gerstell, told NPR, referring to the Espionage Act statute in the search warrant federal investigators executed at Mar-a-Lago. “What it doesn’t include…is a statute that makes it a crime to knowingly remove or retain classified documents,” Gerstell added.

WATCH: Mulvaney Resigns In Protest, Says Others Will Also Quit

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has resigned his post as United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. Mulvaney, who also once served as Trump's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, says he expects other administration officials to quit over Wednesday's Trump-supported insurrection.

"I called [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo last night to let him know I was resigning from that. I can't do it. I can't stay," Mulvaney told CNBC.

"You can't look at that yesterday and think 'I want to be a part of that,'" he said referring to the attempted coup by Trump insurrectionists who took over the U.S. Capitol.

On Wednesday, in response to the domestic terror attack, four other Trump administration officials resigned: Stephanie Grisham, the First Lady's chief of staff; Rickie Niceta, the White House Social Secretary; Sara Matthews, the White House Deputy Press Secretary; and Matt Pottinger, the Deputy National Security Advisor.

"Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they're worried the president might put someone worse in," he added.

Mulvaney at one point was one of the most powerful officials inside the Trump White House.

Watch:



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When Republicans Tell The Truth (And Think It’s A Joke)

My friend Mark Russell, the wonderful American humorist, had an ironclad prediction:

The results of the 2020 Census will show that more than 215,000 Americans, in the coming year, will reach the age of 100, and Russell adds, "All of them will have valid Florida driver's licenses."

The unreelected 45th president is (sadly) that rare human being with neither an embarrassment gene nor a sense of humor. A sense of humor usually indicates perspective in its possessor. Our two most previous presidents, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush, both of whom were reelected, were not afraid to laugh publicly at their own perceived problems or shortcomings.

Bush, the 43rd president, was clearly comfortable poking fun at himself: "Those stories about my intellectual capacity do get under my skin. You know, for a while, I even thought my staff believed it. There on my schedule first thing every morning it said, 'Intelligence Briefing.'" Acknowledging his frequent mispronunciations and fractured syntax, Bush said. "You know what Garrison Keillor said: 'George Bush's lips are where words go to die.'"

After former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani had asserted, "I do not believe President Obama loves America," and then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker added that he didn't "really know whether Obama loves America," President Obama offered the following rejoinder. With Walker sitting only a few feet away from him, Obama responded: "Think about it, Scott. If I didn't love America, I wouldn't have moved here from Kenya." Conceding that his White House years had noticeably aged him, Barack Obama publicly remarked, "I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be."

If this does not seem important, then just remember that when President George W. Bush ran successfully for reelection — the one and only Republican to do so since 1984 — against then-Sen. John Kerry, the consensus judgment was that Kerry won all three debates against Bush, and public opinion polls revealed that voters judged Kerry to be more intelligent and knowledgeable than Bush. Asked, given those facts, how Bush won, the respected Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart explained, "Voters value 'I like' over IQ."

Contrary to popular lore, not all political scandals take place in Washington, D.C. Not that many hours' drive from where we are right now, in a state prison, one convict turned to his cellmate and said, "You know, the food was a lot better here when you were governor."


Hands down, the year's award for Daring to Admit the Ugly Truth goes to former Trump Budget Director and South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney when he exposed the Republican inconsistencies on federal spending: "My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama was the president. Then Donald Trump became president and we're a lot less interested as a party."

Happy new year.


To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Patriotism On Full Display —By Chickenhawks Like Trump

Mick Mulvaney was a four-term Republican congressman from South Carolina with a reputation as a hawk on government spending in 2017 when President Donald Trump chose him to be director of the Office of Budget and Management, the nation's top fiscal officer. Mulvaney held that position until December 2018, when Trump named him "acting" White House chief of staff , a position he held until March 2020 when the president replaced him with North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows.

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New Report Shows ’Sharpiegate’ Foretold Trump’s Carnage

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

While it was dismissed by some as an overhyped media obsession, the presidential scandal that has come to be known as "Sharpiegate" was, in fact, an early warning sign of the truly catastrophic potential of Donald Trump.

The story arose out of Hurricane Dorian, which began its deliberate march up toward the East Coast of the United States in late August and early September of 2019. It ravaged the Bahamas, and officials feared the damage it could inflict stateside. But then came a Trump tweet on Sept. 1, and later comments to reporters, in which he warned that Alabama was in the storm's path. He said it was among the states "most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated."

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Why Mick Mulvaney Wants To Remain ‘Acting’ White House Chief

Mick Mulvaney has been Donald Trump’s “acting” chief of staff for more than 14 months, making him the longest-serving of the three chiefs of staff Trump’s had since taking office.

Given Mulvaney has been around so long, it’s curious why “acting” is still part of his job title given he’s been around for so long.

But on Wednesday, Mulvaney revealed the real reason he keeps the “acting” as part of his job title: money.

The New York Times reported that in a question-and-answer session with the Oxford Union in England, Mulvaney said being “acting” chief of staff allows him to also keep his role as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

If he gave up the “acting” in his job title, he would have to give up his OMB job — leading to a $20,000 pay cut.

For Mulvaney to keep a name in his title in order to take more taxpayer money is a hypocritical move for a man who rose to prominence by fighting for fiscal conservatism and cutting the national debt.

Before joining the Trump administration, Mulvaney was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus — a group of GOP lawmakers who rankled their party’s leadership when Republicans controlled the House.

House Freedom Caucus members caused numerous headaches for then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, including helping to kill off a GOP attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act back in 2017.

Mulvaney also admitted at the Oxford Union event that Republicans are hypocritical when it comes to the national debt.

“My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama was the president,” Mulvaney said. “Then Donald Trump became president, and we’re a lot less interested as a party.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.