(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
Something is rattling the president and causing his behavior to become even more erratic than his default mode of mental instability warrants. This week he cut all financial aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, against the advice of experts who argued that it will bring only more asylum seekers to the southern border. Subsequently he threatened to close that entire border, in spite of the serious damage that would do to the US economy, and he complained that Puerto Rico, a US territory but referred to as ‘that country’ by a White House spokesperson, had received far too much aid after Hurricane Maria, according to Trump $91 billion while the real number is $11 billion. In a speech at a fundraiser the president said that he loved Germany because his father was born there, apparently no longer aware of the fact that Fred Trump was born in the Bronx, and in a Q&A with the White House press corps he tried to talk about the ‘origins’ of the Mueller investigation, but twice misspoke and referred to the ‘oranges’ of the probe, making even the most long-faced correspondents chuckle and getting multiple replays on the political talk shows.
There were plenty of reasons for the president to be discombobulated: Attorney General William Barr’s refusal to make the full, unredacted Mueller report available to Congress is beginning to look more and more like a white-wash and forced the House Judiciary Committee to authorize its chairman to subpoena the report. And while Trump was also back-peddling on his generous promise that the whole report would be made public members of Mueller’s team indirectly informed the New York Times that Barr had failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry, which were more troubling for Trump than the AG had indicated. It was the first time tension between Barr and the Special Counsel’s office was aired publicly, and if the Justice Department and the White House were trying to pull off the mother of all cover-ups by letting the narrative that the president had been completely exonerated take hold before more damaging information would become available they have failed already, because only 29% of the population, even less than Trump’s 33% base, believes in his innocence, 40% does not, and 31% still doesn’t know what to think.
Adding to the president’s discomfort was the information from a whistle blower in the White House Personnel Security Office that at least 25 staffers – Jared Kushner among them – received security clearances that were initially denied because of concerns about potential blackmail, foreign influence, conflicts of interest, questionable or criminal conduct, financial issues and drug abuse. The House Oversight Committee authorized a subpoena for Carl Kline, the official who had played a key role in reversing security clearance decisions.
To make a bad week even worse for Trump the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee asked the IRS to release the president’s tax returns for the last six years to him by April 10th. By law the committee is entitled to this information but it is to be expected that a subpoena and then a lengthy court battle will follow the request, drawing Treasury Secretary Mnuchin into a fight with the House. Trump meanwhile insists that his returns are still under audit.
Unexpectedly the president announced that he would not develop a health care plan before November 2020, making it the number one election issue, and today he travels to California to unveil a plaque with his name on it on a new section of the wall. The construction of that section was approved by Obama, whose name should therefore have been on that plaque.
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