“President Trump’s new acting intelligence director, Richard Grenell, used to do consulting work on behalf of an Eastern European oligarch who is now a fugitive and was recently barred from entering the U.S. under anti-corruption sanctions imposed last month by the State Department,” ProPublica reports.
“In 2016, Grenell wrote several articles defending the oligarch, a Moldovan politician named Vladimir Plahotniuc, but did not disclose that he was being paid.”
“Grenell also did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which generally requires people to disclose work in the U.S. on behalf of foreign politicians.”
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates called President Trump’s anger over intelligence officials briefing lawmakers on Russian election interference is a “screaming red siren.”
Said Yates: “This is a screaming red siren, but in the daily barrage of crazy, can we hear it? Trump is not only trying to rewrite history of Russia’s intervention in 2016, he is now using the power of the presidency to conceal their 2020 scheme to re-elect him. Dangerous!”
“Richard Grenell’s tenure as the nation’s top intelligence official may be short-lived, but he wasted no time this week starting to shape his team of advisers, ousting his office’s No. 2 official — a longtime intelligence officer — and bringing in an expert on Trump conspiracy theories to help lead the agency,” the New York Times reports.
“Mr. Grenell has also requested the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week before the House Intelligence Committee where officials told lawmakers that Russia was interfering in November’s presidential election and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia favored President Trump’s re-election. The briefing later prompted Mr. Trump’s anger as he complained that Democrats would use it against him.”
Garrett Graff: “While vacancies and acting officials have become commonplace in this administration, the moves by President Trump this week represent a troubling and potentially profound new danger to the country. There will soon be no Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterterrorism Center, director of national intelligence, principal deputy director of national intelligence, homeland security secretary, deputy homeland security secretary, nor leaders of any of the three main border security and immigration agencies.”
“Across the government, nearly 100,000 federal law enforcement agents, officers, and personnel are working today without permanent agency leaders, from Customs and Border Protection to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.”
“All the posts, and many more top security jobs, are unfilled or staffed with leaders who have not been confirmed by the Senate. Trump has done an end-around, installing loyalists without subjecting them to legally mandated vetting and approval by Congress.”
“Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the career diplomat who during the impeachment hearings of President Trump offered a chilling account of alleged threats from Trump and his allies, has a book deal,” the AP reports.
“Financial terms were not disclosed, but two people familiar with the deal told the AP that the agreement was worth seven figures, even though the book is not expected until Spring 2021, months after this fall’s election.”
ProPublica: “Last year, Richard Walters earned a salary of $207,558, but the party paid him an additional $135,000 through a shell company he established in December 2018 called Red Wave Strategies. Federal Election Commission reports described the RNC’s payments to Red Wave as ‘political strategy services,’ as if the money had flowed to an independent contractor and not Walters himself. Red Wave does not have other employees and has no clients other than the RNC.”
“Amid the flows of cash to the GOP, a select group of political operatives has leveraged Trump campaign ties for lucrative consulting work… A half-dozen former RNC employees and Republican operatives said that the various deals, typically veiled behind opaque limited liability corporations, create an unseemly overall impression that is bad for morale and could eventually harm the party’s credibility with donors.”
President Trump was close to nominating Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) as director of national intelligence, Bloomberg reports. “But that idea was scrapped when Trump learned of a 2016 video clip in which Stewart said ‘Donald Trump does not represent Republican ideals, he is our Mussolini.’”
“Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump,” Axios reports.
“McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government.”
President Trump said that his administration would continue offering subsidies to farmers until various trade deals “fully kick in.” He falsely claimed the aid would be “paid for out of the massive tariff money coming into the USA!” Those tariffs are actually paid by U.S. consumers, not foreign countries.
President Trump “was surprised and angered by the Justice Department’s decision not to charge Andrew McCabe with crimes, but the president is wary of acting against the former deputy FBI director out of concern he might push Attorney General William Barr to resign,” Bloomberg reports.
“The Justice Department gave the White House no advance notice of its decision on McCabe, meaning Trump found out along with the public when it was announced on Tuesday, three of the people said. That created fresh point of potential tension between Trump and Barr, who has publicly criticized Trump’s tweets about criminal cases DOJ is pursuing and has privately told associates he may quit.”
The Republican National Committee is sending documents labeled “2020 Congressional District Census” to people in California and across the country just weeks before the start of the official nationwide count of the country’s population, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Critics say the misleading mailers — in envelopes labeled “Do Not Destroy. Official Document” and including a lengthy questionnaire on blue-tinted paper similar to the type used by the real census — are designed to confuse people and possibly lower the response rate when the count begins in mid-March.
New Yorker: “Miller wasn’t so much channeling Trump as overtaking him. Inside the White House, he was known as a ‘walking encyclopedia’ on immigration, and the President’s political advisers, who acknowledged that campaigning on the issue had been the key to Trump’s victory in 2016, deferred to him as an expert. Those with reservations—like Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser—had other responsibilities. Miller could outmaneuver them if he used the right interagency channels. He sent e-mail sparingly and avoided calling officials directly to issue orders, relaying his messages through intermediaries.”
“Since Trump could rarely comprehend the full substance of his own Administration’s agenda on immigration, it fell to Miller to define what victory looked like.”