White House

Palestinian leader says White House peace efforts ‘in chaos’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that the entire administration of US President Donald Trump is in “chaos,” and indicated that the White House disarray was affecting peace efforts.

“I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos,” Abbas told a delegation of dovish Israeli lawmakers visiting Ramallah.

Abbas told parliamentarians from the Meretz party that he had met with US officials more than 20 times since Trump’s election in November 2016, yet still had little idea what their plans for peace negotiations were.

“Each time they reiterate their commitment to a two-state solution and the stop to settlement building,” he said, according to Hebrew media reports. “I urge them to tell Netanyahu that, but they refrain.”

He added that it is impossible to know what Trump and his team are planning.

The comments came as Trump is set to send three top aides to the region this week in an effort to kickstart peace efforts.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell will all head to the Middle East, according to the White House, and will meet with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Trump has asked his delegation to focus the talks on this trip around several broad themes, inclusive finding “a path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, combating extremism [and dealing with] the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there,” according to a senior White House official.

While Ramallah has officially welcomed US peace efforts, officials have begun to grumble about what they see as a lack of commitment to a two-state solution or finding a way forward, as well as a bias toward Israel’s positions.

Abbas also said Sunday that Israel was preventing the resumption of security cooperation with his government, considered a key plank of ties between Ramallah and Jerusalem, which have recently withered over tensions surrounding the Temple Mount.

“We recently contacted them to try to resume some kind of cooperation, but they did not respond, which is preventing progress in our relations,” Abbas said.

Israeli officials quoted by Channel 2 news said later Sunday that this was not the case.

The PA had cut parts of the security cooperation with Israel in mid July after Israel decided to install new security measures at the Temple Mount following a terror attack there. Palestinians and others saw the metal detectors, cameras and other methods as a breach of the sensitive status quo governing the site, supporting a boycott of the Mount and leading to near daily violence.

Abbas said that Ramallah had informed the US of the situation regarding the security cooperation, which is seen as vital for both Israel to keep a thumb on terror in the West Bank, and for Abbas’s Fatah party to keep the rival Hamas group from growing too strong.

Meretz head Zehava Galon told Abbas she disapproved of steps taken by the Palestinian leader to isolate the Gaza Strip as a means of pressuring Hamas, the de facto ruler of the enclave.

Abbas had stopped paying for Israeli electricity provided to the Strip and had also reportedly kept medical supplies from reaching there.

“I do not support Hamas or the government it established, but the decision to punish the people of Gaza by cutting off electricity is wrong and illegitimate,” Galon told Abbas.

She stressed her party’s commitment to a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders and an end to Israel’s hold on the West Bank.

“We are here today because we believe in a moderate Palestinian leadership,” Galon told the Palestinian Authority president. “There is no difference between our ideas as partners for peace.”

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White House Petition Asks Trump to Formally Recognize Antifa as Terrorist Organization

“AntiFa has earned this title due to its violent actions in multiple cities and their influence in the killings of multiple police officers throughout the United States,” the petition states.

(Washington Examiner)

Antifa is short for anti-fascists, and the people involved are generally extreme leftists known for their face-offs with right-wing activists, including recently in Berkeley, Calif. Antifa counter-protesters made an appearance in Charlottesville, Va. this past weekend and clashed with white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

Though he didn’t use the term “Antifa,” President Trump, who has been under fire for not taking a dedicated hardline stance against the white supremacy gathering, did express concern over the violent actions of the “alt-left” in Charlottesville.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right? Do they have any assemblage of guilt?” Trump told reporters at Trump Tower on Tuesday. “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. That was a horrible, horrible day.”

Trump added that there was “blame on both sides.”

“Terrorism is defined as ‘the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims,'” an individual with the account name M.A. says in the petition.

“It is time for the pentagon to be consistent in its actions – and just as they rightfully declared ISIS a terror group, they must declare AntiFa a terror group – on the grounds of principle, integrity, morality, and safety,” M.A. says.

The petition only had 1,259 signatures as of press time. There is a 100,000 benchmark within 30 days after which the White House is compelled to reply.

Similar petitions have taken aim at other advocacy groups since Trump took over the White House in January, but none had really taken off, including one demanding that Black Lives Matter be dubbed a terrorist group.

White House staff on edge — one more resignation could set off a mass exodus

With Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Mike Flynn, Anthony Scaramucci and other staffers all quitting or getting fired from President Donald Trump’s White House, staffers are nervously eyeing each other to see who will be the next to go, according to Vanity Fair‘s Isobel Thompson.

On Friday, President Donald Trump made it official that White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon no longer works for the administration as Bannon’s loyal supporters at Breitbart.com ramped a plan for “war” against the White House.

Meanwhile, inside the White House, shell-shocked aides and advisors are all wondering who will bolt for the exit next. Firings and resignations are coming at such a furious pace that one D.C. restaurant is offering discounted drinks on days that the president fires a White House official.

Trump has reportedly been jubilant in the wake of his combative press conference earlier this week in which he created a moral equivalency between neo-Nazi and white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, VA and the protesters who turned out to oppose them.

“Privately however, many staffers were queasy,” said Thompson. Aides have tried and tried to explain to Trump that he’s not helping himself but “He doesn’t care,” one White House adviser said.
“A number of people are on thin ice,” said another aide, who said the White House staff is “stunned and disheartened” after the weeks slew of failures, embarrassments and setbacks.

There is a sense, said Thompson, that “that the dominos could be about to fall.”

One aide told Axios.com, “The danger for Trump now is that one senior resignation will start a run on the bank.”

Rumors that Cohn — who is Jewish — might resign over Trump’s failure to disavow the KKK sent shockwaves through economic markets this week, although traders were jubilant on Friday when they heard that Bannon was fired.
Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly has struggled in vain this week to rein the president in and keep him from going off on emotional rants and outbursts. The newly-hired White House chief of staff is potentially finding out what attorneys who refuse to represent Trump already know, that the commander-in-chief is unable to exercise even the simplest forms of message discipline.

Meanwhile, said Thompson, public opinion and recent events are threatening to swamp an already storm-tossed administration and take down the Republican Party with it. As the stark “moral binary” becomes clear over whether to back an administration that has declared its common cause with white supremacists, history is watching.

“Some may be mulling altering the course of their careers,” she wrote, “rather than being tarnished in the process. History will likely not only look unkindly at Trump, but those staring steadfastly at the floor, too.”

Stephen Bannon (White Idiot, White Freemason, Zionist) Out at the White House After Turbulent Run

Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election but clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers, is leaving his post, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday.

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

Earlier on Friday, the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion. But a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted that the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week. But the move was delayed after the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year.

Mr. Bannon’s many critics bore down after the violence in Charlottesville. Outraged over Mr. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead, human rights activists demanded that the president fire so-called nationalists working in the West Wing. That group of hard-right populists in the White House is led by Mr. Bannon.

Here Are the Top Officials in the Trump White House Who Have Left

With the departure of Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, at least eight top officials are no longer in the White House.

On Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, Mr. Trump refused to guarantee Mr. Bannon’s job security but defended him as “not a racist” and “a friend.”

“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Bannon’s dismissal followed an Aug. 16 interview he initiated with a writer with whom he had never spoken, with the progressive publication The American Prospect. In it, Mr. Bannon mockingly played down the American military threat to North Korea as nonsensical: “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

He also bad-mouthed his colleagues in the Trump administration, vowed to oust a diplomat at the State Department and mocked officials as “wetting themselves” over the consequences of radically changing trade policy.

Of the far right, he said, “These guys are a collection of clowns,” and he called it a “fringe element” of “losers.”

“We gotta help crush it,” he said in the interview, which people close to Mr. Bannon said he believed was off the record.

Privately, several White House officials said that Mr. Bannon appeared to be provoking Mr. Trump and that they did not see how the president could keep him on after the interview was published.

Mr. Bannon had made clear to allies after the American Prospect interview that he expected to be back soon at the right-wing website Breitbart.com that he had steered before joining Mr. Trump’s campaign. He had dinner in New York City on Wednesday night with Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire who is also Mr. Bannon’s chief patron, to discuss the future, according to a person briefed on the discussions.

Mr. Bannon’s departure was long rumored in Washington. Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was brought on as chief of staff for his ability to organize a chaotic staff, was said to have grown weary of the chief strategist’s long-running feud with Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser.

One White House official, who would not be named discussing the president’s thinking, said Mr. Trump has wanted to remove Mr. Bannon since he ousted Reince Priebus as his chief of staff three weeks ago; Mr. Bannon had been aligned with Mr. Priebus. But Mr. Trump changed his mind as several defenders of Mr. Bannon warned the president that he risked losing supporters who saw Mr. Bannon as a conduit of their views.

Since then, Mr. Kelly has been evaluating Mr. Bannon’s status, according to the official. The president and Mr. Kelly have talked over the past several days and Mr. Bannon had planned to put his resignation in motion in the coming days, this person said.

Mr. Bannon has been in a battle with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, since the spring.

Mr. Bannon, whose campaign against “globalists” was a hallmark of his tenure steering Breitbart, and Mr. Kushner had been allies throughout the transition process and through the beginning of the administration.

But their alliance ruptured as Mr. Trump elevated the roles of Gary D. Cohn, his top economic policy adviser and a former official at Goldman Sachs, and Dina Powell, a former Bush administration official who also worked on Wall Street. Mr. Cohn is a registered Democrat, and both he and Ms. Powell have been denounced by conservative media outlets as being antithetical to Mr. Trump’s populist message.

Mossad chief leads delegation to brief White House on Syria

Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen will lead an Israeli delegation of defense officials to brief the White House later this week on the security situation in Syria, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

Cohen will be joined by Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi and the director of the Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, Zohar Palti.

The group will meet with US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and other senior officials, the report said.

The sit-down was orchestrated by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

“Talks will focus on Israel’s security needs vis-a-vis Syria and Lebanon, and will not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” a White House official told Haaretz.

The teams are expected to discuss the ceasefire agreement in southern Syria that was brokered by Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out against the agreementannounced on July 7, saying that it does not sufficiently address Iranian military ambitions in the area.

The condemnation presented a rare case of the prime minister at odds with the US president. Netanyahu told journalists that the agreement perpetuates Iranian plans to set up a disruptive long-term presence on Israel’s northern border, something he has repeatedly vowed that the Jewish state won’t abide.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent presence in Syria. Israel has also carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of “game-changing” weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia.

Security officials have warned that Tehran may use the area of western Iraq and eastern Syria as a “land bridge” to transfer fighters and weaponry to Lebanon.

The ceasefire was the first initiative by the Trump administration in collaboration with Russia to bring some stability to war-torn Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during a support gathering by Likud party members and activists at the Tel Aviv Convention Center on August 9, 2017. (AFP/Jack GUEZ)

Apprehensions over Iranian designs in the region were stoked by recent movements of Shiite Muslim militias — loyal to Iran and fighting alongside Syrian government forces — toward Jordan’s border with Syria, and to another strategic area in the southeast, close to where the two countries meet Iraq.

The advances are part of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s push to regain territory from rebel groups, some backed by the West, in the southern Daraa province, and from Islamic State extremists in the southeast, near the triangle with Iraq.

But Syria’s neighbors suspect that Iran is pursuing a broader agenda, including carving out a land route through Syria that would create a territorial continuum from Iran and Iraq to Lebanon.

The ceasefire for southern Syria is meant to keep all forces pinned to their current positions, said Jordan’s government which participated in the talks. This would prevent further advances by forces under Iran’s command, including Hezbollah.

Days after White House adviser dismissed Oklahoma City bombing, feds disrupt McVeigh-inspired plot

Last Thursday, Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to President Trump, went on Breitbart News Daily and made a case that the media should take it easier on white supremacists.

While dismissing the notion of “lone wolf” terror attacks, Gorka discussed Timothy McVeigh, a right-wing extremist who wasn’t connected to ISIS or al Qaeda and killed 168 people when he bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Gorka, however, suggested that the Oklahoma City was ancient history, and that McVeigh is not the sort of person we should be worried about in 2017.

“It’s this constant, ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No, it isn’t, Maggie Haberman,” he said. “Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.”

Gorka’s take was bad at the time — he overlooked data indicating that over a nearly 14 year span following the 9/11 attacks, a person in America was much more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim. But his comments looked even worse on Saturday, when an alleged Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one.

Then, on Monday, news broke of another alleged right-wing plot. The Department of Justice announced that 23-year-old Jerry Varnell was arrested on Saturday “after he failed to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van he had parked in an alley” next to an Oklahoma City bank. Varnell was arrested after a months-long undercover FBI investigation.

The Washington Post, citing court documents, reports that Varnell was motivated by “an admiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy Mc­Veigh.”

“In one conversation he said he believed in the ‘Three Percenter’ ideology — a form of anti-government activism that pledges resistance against the United States government on the belief it has infringed on the Constitution, according to court papers,” the Post adds. “Those who subscribe to the ideology incorrectly believe that only 3 percent of the colonial population participated in the American Revolution, and they see themselves as their heirs.”

In a statement, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said “[i]t is chilling to think that a sympathizer of Timothy McVeigh would want to act on hate, as a tribute to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil before September 11.”

Contradicting Gorka, Lankford added that Varnell’s arrest “is another somber reminder that, as a nation, we must remain vigilant about home-grown extremism and radicalization in our communities.”

Gorka, meanwhile, has been unusually quiet over the course of the five very tumultuous days since he argued on “the platform for the alt-right” that white supremacists aren’t a problem.

Trump condemnation of violence ‘includes white supremacists’ — White House

US President Donald Trump’s condemnation of bigotry and hatred at a “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia that turned violent included white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, the White House says.

“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups,” a spokesperson said.

Covert Agent Edward Mandell House: The Enemy Within Wilson’s White House

http://www.renegadetribune.com/covert-agent-edward-mandell-house-enemy-within-wilsons-white-house/

 

By Russ Winter of The New Nationalist

In yesterday’s “Enemy Within” article, we covered the suppressed history of a clique of warmongers and Soviet spies surrounding President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. In a similar vein, the presidency of Woodrow Wilson was hijacked by one Edward Mandell House (né Huis) (1858-1938), who also went by the self-styled pseudonym “Colonel House.”

House had no military or diplomatic experience. He never had a profession but used his family wealth as a political kingmaker. In 1911, he became an adviser, close friend and supporter of New Jersey Gov. Woodrow Wilson and helped him win the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912.

In “The Strangest Friendship in History, Woodrow Wilson and Col. House,” by George Sylvester Viereck, the author writes:

What,” I asked House, “cemented your friendship?” House answered, “I handed him $35,000.”

It is also generally acknowledged that the Crime Syndicate Cabal had the goods on Wilson because of an affair. Col. House was a front man for the Cabal at a time when it was led by the (((Schiffs))), (((Kuhns))), (((Warburgs))), Rockefellers and Morgans. One of the first orders of business when Wilson came into office was the enactment of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Edward Mandell House (L) and US President Woodrow Wilson (R).

House was a Warburg agent. “The Intimate Papers of Col. House” details his regular meetings throughout 1913 with Warburg and his associates. In an entry dated March 27, 1913, he writes of coaching sponsors: “McAdoo came about 10 minutes afterward. Morgan had a currency plan already printed. I suggested he have it typewritten, so it would not seem too prearranged, and send it to Wilson and myself today.”

During the Panic of 1907, Wilson had declared, “All this trouble could be averted if we appointed a committee of six or seven public-spirited men like J.P. Morgan to handle the affairs of our country.” During the legislative battle to enact, Sen. LaFollette, who was opposed, publicly charged that a money trust of 50 men controlled the U.S. George F. Baker, partner of J.P. Morgan, on being queried by reporters as to the truth of the charge, replied that it was absolutely in error. He said that he knew from personal knowledge that not more than eight men ran the country.

With his first major task completed House, went on to his next job: drawing the U.S. into WWI. For that task, House assumed the role of “executive adviser” and went to Europe to carry out Wilson’s pledge of “peace through diplomacy.” Wilson actively pushed for status quo ante bellum and post-war disarmament as the terms to end WWI.

Rather than proceeding as an honest broker, which was Wilson’s supposed goal, House quickly fell into bed with the pedophile British War Party. He became a lackey for foreign secretary Edward Grey. Grey’s task was to drag the U.S. into WWI. House enjoyed manipulating people and events, and even Wilson eventually realized (too late) that he acted with malice.

Edward Mandell House (C) sailing to Europe in 1916.

Grey cleverly manipulated the Americans into agreeing to the secret House-Grey Memorandum of Feb. 22, 1916, that indicated that if the Allies all attended a peace conference and the Germans refused, the U.S. “would probably enter the war against Germany.” Wilson endorsed the scheme.

Ironically, Wilson was an opponent of secret diplomacy, viewing it as a threat to peace. He made the abolition of secret diplomacy the first point of his Fourteen Points. After the war, Grey was the first to tattle and claim bragging rights about this manipulation. Wilson was re-elected in 1916 under the slogan “He Kept us Out of War.”

Around the time of this secret memorandum, there was a serious German peace overture. This overture is not something mentioned in textbooks, but it has been mentioned by the man who received it: James W. Gerard, the American ambassador to Germany (1913-1917), who wrote about it in his autobiography, “My First Eighty Three Years in America.”

The response from Washington was most astonishing. Instead of commenting on Germany’s proposal for peace, the White House directed the ambassador to communicate with Col. House instead of the U.S. president:

In addition to the cable which I had already received informing me that Colonel House was “fully commissioned to act” he himself reminded me of my duty in his February 16 postscript. In his own handwriting these were the words from House. “The President has just repeated to me your cablegram to him and says he has asked you to communicate directly with me in future . . .” All authority, therefore had been vested in Colonel House direct, the President ceased to be  even a conduit of communications. … He, who had never been appointed to any position, and who had never been passed by the Senate, was “fully instructed and commissioned” to act in the most grave situation. I have never ceased to wonder how he had managed to attain such power and influence.

Realizing that Col. House was in control of Wilson, the Germans made another overture of peace on Dec. 12, 1916. This has been revealed by historian Leon Degrelle. He mentions that on on that day, German officials expressed a desire for peace and talks with their adversaries. He also writes that the Germans expressed the hope that Col. House would persuade the Allies. Col. House ruled out peace and thus helped sabotage the second peace initiative within the same year.

The U.S. entered WWI in April 1917.

In October 1918, when Germany petitioned for peace based on the Fourteen Points, Wilson tasked House with working out details of an armistice with the Allies. Instead, House, as the chief American negotiator and Wilson’s chief adviser at the Paris peace conference in 1919, adopted much of the France’s hardline anti-German position.

Against Wilson’s stance, he had tentatively approved French demands for the separation of the Rhineland from Germany and the separation of the League of Nations from the peace treaty with Germany. He sent misleading, misquoted, false and mistaken reports to Wilson that jeopardized Wilson’s credibility with foreign leaders and undermined the president’s initiatives.

Wilson, his wife Edith, Col. House. Edith looks like she is rolling her eyes.

Wilson was increasingly ill, but at last awoke to House’s endless scheming and cut him loose. Wilson told a friend, “House has given away everything I had won. … I will have to start all over again.”

Edith, Wilson’s new young wife who became defacto facade president after Wilson’s stroke, also made the right call on the rascal Col. House. She said, “I can’t help feeling that he is not a very strong character.” Her passive stewardship of the office of President as a non-criminal actor seemed to mark the end of the more blatant Wilson-House Crime Syndicate TPTB shit-storming. But before leaving the stage, House co-founded the highly influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Wilson’s strokes on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, 1919, removed him from the treaty process, which was never ratified by the U.S., nor was the League of Nations. In 1922, and out-of-office Wilson all but admitted that the treaty was a flop and predicted trouble ahead.

By that time, however, the damaging Versailles Treaty was cast in stone, enacted and set the stage for an eventual large-scale German reaction and laid the conditions for WWII.

Contrary to the standard narrative, Hitler did not act as a lone wolf in dismantling the despised treaty. He had a strong popular mandate behind him urging him onward.

Rampant White Supremacy at the White House As Trump Tries to Distract His Base (White Idiots)

Donald Trump is too dumb to be trusted to butter his own bread, but one thing his limited brain is capable of understanding is that tickling the racist impulses of much of white America makes them cheer for him. This explains the dizzying escalation of white supremacist gibberish emanating from the Trump administration over the past week. Trump is afraid he’s losing his proverbial “white working class” base and believes his best bet to win them back is to remind them that he shares their hatred and distrust of people they view as racially or ethnically Other. Unfortunately, he’s probably right.

A lot happened during the unofficial White Supremacy Week at the White House, so it’s a bit hard to keep up. The festivities kicked off last Friday, July 28, when Trump went to Long Island to give a speech to assembled police officers in which he painted immigrants as criminals and recommended police brutality, to great applause. On Tuesday of last week, the Justice Department announced it would focus resources on fighting discrimination against white people in college admissions, shoring up the racist myth that undeserving people of color are “stealing” opportunities from more deserving whites. On Wednesday, the White House rolled out, with great fanfare, a proposal to cut legal immigration in half, which was clearly meant to prioritize white and/or English-speaking immigrants over others.

It doesn’t take much sleuthing to figure out why all this is happening right now. The Russia investigation is heating up and there’s irrefutable proof that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner attended a meeting with Russian operatives for the express purpose of undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump practically apologized to Russia after being forced to sign a bipartisan sanctions bill, which does nothing to dispel fears that Vladimir Putin is pulling Trump’s strings. Prominent firings and subsequent leaks — which are probably linked — have further reinforced the public understanding of just how corrupt and incompetent our president is.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s approval ratings have fallen to record lows, which would be hard on any president but is especially brutal for a malignant narcissist who desperately wants to believe people like him. Even more disturbing for Trump, his own base is starting to harbor doubts. Three-quarters of non-college-educated white voters liked Trump back in March, but now that number has plummeted to 43 percent, and about half such voters openly disapprove of him.

In light of all this, White Supremacy Week was almost certainly an effort from Team Trump to re-ingratiate Orange Mussolini to his base. Promising to kick non-white people in the teeth is about reminding the most hardcore troglodytes why they loved Trump in the first place. The administration is clearly hoping that their base voters will overlook a whole lot of stupidity, corruption and damage as long as the racist hits keep on coming.

Since Trump took office, there has been a tiresome and circular debate over whether his incessant antics are meant to be a distraction. “He’s just trying to distract us from Russia/health care/kleptocracy!” one group will say whenever Trump tweets some crazy nonsense or pushes some bigoted and half-assed policy idea, like the trans ban. “But these antics cause real damage to our country and we need to pay attention to them!” the other side will say.

This debate is doomed from the get-go because it’s based on a false premise, which is that liberals are the primary audience for these antics. The likelier explanation is that Trump is mostly trying to divert his conservative base away from the Russia scandal, among other things.

Understanding this can help resolve this distraction debate. Trump’s antics are both a distraction and a serious cause for concern. Whenever Trump starts to worry that his own base is starting to lose faith, he starts tossing those folks some red meat, often in the form of finding a minority group to pick on.

This also should help resolve the question of whether Trump’s antics are sincere or calculated: The answer is both. Trump is as dumb as a sack full of rocks, but he understands that racism gets his base excited because it gets him excited. If anything, his incuriosity and stupidity are an asset when it comes to connecting with his base. Clever people might overthink this — Trump just goes out and says the vile, empty crap he’d want to hear. It generally works.

Obviously, Trump has other tactics besides racism exploits to occupy his base’s attention so that they don’t have time to think about whether they really want a corrupt president who seems beholden to a Russian dictator. Churning up hatred of ambitious, smart women is always a good bet too, as evidenced by Trump’s Thursday night speech in West Virginia in front of a bunch of whooping jackasses chanting “Lock her up.” He also straight-up asks his followers to ignore the Russia story, as with his announcement that there “were no Russians in our campaign” in that same speech.

This is crude strategy, but it could be effective. Not the part where Trump gets defensive about Russia, of course — that just serves to remind people that he’s worried about the investigation. But for two years now, Trump has been able to get his supporters to forgive him pretty much everything as long as he keeps sticking it to people they hate, from liberals to feminists to people of color.

Some of these dramatics seem substantively empty. Trump rolled the “trans ban” out with a lot of pomp on Twitter, but there seems to have been no effort since then to draft an order the military is obliged to pay attention to. The proposal to reduce legal immigration was presented with even more fanfare — with sneering douchebag Stephen Miller, a fan fave among the deplorables, sent out to announce it — but there’s no evidence that Congress has any interest in picking up a bill that would reverse five decades’ worth of immigration legislation.

None of which is meant to minimize the harm that Trump can cause with all this. Even if Trump fails on every policy initiative he tries, he succeeds in whipping up bigotry and sowing animosity and fear in the public. Hate crimes are rising in number and white supremacists feel emboldened. Members of targeted groups are experiencing higher levels of fear and stress. The mental health damage being done by Trump, in and of itself, is impossible to measure. Some of his bigoted ideas are turning into policy, largely thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is as racist as Trump but not nearly as lazy or stupid.

All of which is why there’s a good reason to worry things will get worse before they get better. The Russia investigation is heating up and special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly impaneled a grand jury. Whatever the legal importance of that fact, that kind of news makes it that much harder for Trump to pretend the Russia scandal is a media concoction with no substance to it. The need to distract his base is intensifying, so we can expect Trump to double down on the racism and misogyny in an effort to keep the reactionary base on his side.

 

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

White House as Crime Scene: How Robert Mueller Is Closing In on Trump

The legal net around Donald Trump’s beleaguered presidency tightened dramatically this week with news that a grand jury has been established a few hundred yards from the White House, to pursue evidence of collusion with the Kremlin.

It is a troubling development for the president, for several reasons. In the US legal system, a grand jury has broad powers to issue subpoenas, and ultimately indictments, at the request of prosecutors.

The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election, former FBI chief Robert Mueller, had been using a sitting grand jury in Virginia to authorise his team’s demands for documents and witnesses. The convening of a separate grand jury in Washington suggests the Mueller team – working in a suite of offices a few blocks’ walk from where the 20-odd jurors sit – is going to be making extensive use of it. It will not be hospitable terrain for the president. Trump won only 4% of the vote in the District of Columbia.

“This sets the scene of action for criminal trials, where charges will be laid, in the worst possible jurisdiction for Trump,” said Scott Horton, a lecturer at Columbia Law School. “Compared to Virginia, Republicansin DC are few and far between.”

The grand jury is also clear evidence that the inquiry is widening, not tapering off. It suggests that the special counsel is exploring possible crimes committed inside the District of Columbia.

Mueller’s investigators are reported by the New York Times to have asked the White House for documents related to the administration’s first, short-lived national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who resigned after being found to have concealed the full nature of his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington, and who is also under scrutiny for his lobbying work for Turkey during the campaign.

Meanwhile, a report from Vox that senior FBI officials have been told to consider themselves potential witnesses in an investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice. The former FBI director James Comey, Mueller’s successor in the post, has testified that Trump tried to put pressure on him to drop the Flynn investigation.

After Comey rebuffed the pressure and refused to swear personal loyalty to Trump, he was fired, on May 9. Trump denies trying to coerce Comey into dropping the case but this is not simply one man’s word against another’s. Comey made extensive notes and kept an inner circle of top FBI aides informed of daily developments.

In the investigation into the obstruction of justice, the White House is the potential crime scene. That is where Trump contrived to be alone on two occasions with Comey and where the alleged arm-twisting took place.

In the Watergate scandal, to which the Russian influence affair is drawing inevitable comparisons, it was the cover-up that ultimately proved fatal to Richard Nixon’s presidency. It is increasingly possible the same fate could befall Trump. On Tuesday, after adamant denials from Trump’s lawyer, the White House admitted that Trump had “weighed in as any father would” in drafting a misleading statement about his son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer with strong Kremlin and intelligence links. The statement said the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children by US nationals. An email exchange released later by Donald Trump Jr showed that the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was in fact offering damaging material on Hillary Clinton.

Reuters has reported that the grand jury in Washington had already issued subpoenas connected to that meeting at Trump Tower in New York, another sign that the investigation is closing in on the Trump family. Trump Jr’s rapid emailed response to the Russian offer of dirt on Clinton – “If it’s what you say I love it” – suggests at least an appetite for collusion, like his father’s own call a month later, in July 2016, for Russia to find thousands of Clinton’s “missing” emails. The Trump campaign later denied that public appeal represented an encouragement for Moscow to hack his opponent’s private server. Trump Jr has claimed nothing came of the June meeting with Veselnitskaya.

Grand jury subpoenas could oblige the president’s son and other participants at the meeting, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, to testify under oath about what really happened in Trump Tower.

Manafort, who ran the campaign for three months in the summer of 2016, has been widely reported to be a focal point of the Mueller inquiry and the FBI investigation before that. Having worked as an adviser to Moscow-backed figures in Ukraine, he represents one of the links between Trump and Moscow. CNN reported on Friday that investigators had found intercepts of Russian operatives referring to conversations with Manafort about coordinating the release of information damaging to Clinton possibly hacked from the Democratic National Committee.

A spokesman for Manafort, Jason Maloni, rejected the report. “Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election or to hack the DNC,” Maloni said in an email to the Guardian. “Other than that comment, we aren’t going to respond to anonymous officials illegally peddling secondhand conspiracy theories. But the Justice Department, and the courts if necessary, should hold someone to account for the flood of unlawful government leaks targeting Mr Manafort.”

It is evident, however, that the scrutiny of Manafort, the now infamous Trump Tower meeting and the obstruction of justice issue are just fragments of a far bigger inquiry. Almost all the 16 lawyers now on Mueller’s team are specialists in money-laundering and other financial crimes, suggesting that the investigation will spend much of its time unwinding the complexities of the Trump and Kushner real estate empires, looking for where the money has come from to keep them afloat. The latest hire, Greg Andres, is a former deputy assistant attorney general who used to run a unit that targeted foreign bribery.

“The Mueller dream-team now has the top 14 financial crimes prosecutors in America,” said Malcolm Nance, a former US intelligence officer and the author of a book on Moscow’s role in the 2016 US election, The Plot to Hack America. Nance predicted that the Mueller investigation would look into every corner of Trump and Kushner’s past business dealings.

“The wheels of justice grind finely and slow but this is a wood chipper, and all these various items and going to get fed into it – Flynn, [Jared] Kushner, Trump, Manafort and anyone who has been assigned to the White House over this period,” Nance said. “Their entire lives are going to be subjected to scrutiny. No one is getting out unscathed. That’s why Trump is so terrified.”

In a New York Times interview last month, Trump appeared to suggest that a probe of his financial dealings beyond direct links with Russia would represent a “violation”, a possible red line which Mueller should not cross. He would not be drawn on whether he would seek to have the special counsel sacked in that eventuality, “because I don’t think it’s going to happen”.

Firing Mueller would come at a high price, triggering uproar in Washington, alienating some Republicans in Congress. Two bipartisan bills were drafted this week aimed at blocking Trump from doing just that.

Even if the president managed to rid himself of the troublesome special counsel, he would have no guarantee that he could kill off the investigation. The work of other members of the team and of the grand juries would continue.

Trump has also been reported to be exploring the possibility of issuing pardons to family members and other associates found to have broken the law, including even pardoning himself, a stretch of executive prerogative into uncharted territory.

For now, his strategy is to seek to drain the legitimacy of the special counsel and the FBI, ridiculing the investigation as a witch hunt. His supporters are counter-investigating the Mueller team, looking for weaknesses and points of leverage and portraying the investigators as operatives of an amorphous “deep state”.

“They can’t beat us at the voting booths, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want,” Trump told a rally in West Virginia on Thursday, fueling the mood of paranoia among his most committed supporters.

That strategy looks ahead to an endgame in which the Mueller investigation comes into its conclusion, next year or possibly even later than that. The grand juries could issue indictments of Trump associates along the way, but when it comes to the president himself, Mueller’s judgment will most likely come in the form of a report to Congress.

It will then be up to the House of Representatives whether to proceed with impeachment and then the Senate to decide his guilt. Those will be political judgements. Until now, only a few Republicans have broken ranks openly against Trump.

The president’s general approval ratings have slid to the mid-30s, but they are still high among his core supporters in battleground states, who believe fervently in “deep state” conspiracies. Any Republicans voting for impeachment would have to watch their back. The unfolding investigation could topple a president, or it could just as easily divide and wound the country even more grievously that it is now.