Abbreviated pundit roundup: The White House swamp, Trump’s lies and more

Headlines all over the US underscore the many lies of Trump and Republcans

The LA Times continues its editorial series on Trump Lies:


The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact soprofound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth. […]

He is dangerous. His choice of falsehoods and his method of spewing them — often in tweets, as if he spent his days and nights glued to his bedside radio and was periodically set off by some drivel uttered by a talk show host who repeated something he’d read on some fringe blog — are a clue to Trump’s thought processes and perhaps his lack of agency. He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.

He has made himself the stooge, the mark, for every crazy blogger, political quack, racial theorist, foreign leader or nutcase peddling a story that he might repackage to his benefit as a tweet, an appointment, an executive order or a policy. He is a stranger to the concept of verification, the insistence on evidence and the standards of proof that apply in a courtroom or a medical lab — and that ought to prevail in the White House.

Meanwhile, The New York Times dives into the White House swamp:

The White House boasted that the release of financial disclosures for dozens of administration officials exemplified President Trump’s “commitment to ensure an ethical and transparent government.” The Friday night document dump did nothing of the sort.

The opaque, incomplete filings — which met the bare legal requirements for disclosures — merely raise more questions than they answer about the byzantine dealings of the richest White House in history.

Besides, Mr. Trump has no commitment to ethics or transparency. His failure to shed his business ties and release financial records makes him the most suspect, conflicted president in modern history. If the boss doesn’t care about accountability, why should anyone else?

Over at USA Today, Richard Painter, Norman Eisen and Virginia Canter highlight how ethics laws will remain a problem for the Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, despite the disclosures: 

[T]here are still serious ethics concerns regarding the couple because (like the president) they have chosen not to divest all their assets or place them in a blind trust to be sold by the trustee. Jared has retained extensive real estate holdings primarily located in Chicago, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and throughout New Jersey. He has secured lines of credit (some of which are shared with his mother and father) through 10 banks, including Deutsche Bank, Bank of America and Citigroup.

While the report discloses his personal lines of credit, it does not disclose the lenders and investors for the family businesses in which he retains an interest, which create further conflicts. These lenders reportedly include Goldman Sachs, the Blackstone Group, Deutsche Bank, the French bank Natixis and Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim. Based on these financial backers, Jared will need to recuse from many matters involving the financial services industry, including any steps to repeal the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. So will Ivanka because one spouse’s conflicts are by law attributed to the other.

Jonathan Chait examines how Trump really hasn’t separated from his business empire at all:

The main problem with Trump’s “separation,” of course, is that it operates on his say-so. Without access to his tax returns, the extent of his business conflicts is a matter of guesswork to the public. And, with the president enjoying an idiosyncratic exemption from the strict conflict-of-interest requirements that bind other federal employees, the only enforcement mechanisms lie in Congress’s hands. Congress could require Trump to release his tax returns, but the Republican majority has voted down even these halting steps.

Indeed, Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, gave a series of blanket defenses for Trump’s self-enrichment. Trump, he explained, is already rich, surely has no interest in getting richer, and his potential self-enrichment would not affect average Americans, who in any case do not care. The Republican Congress has granted Trump unlimited license to use his office to enrich himself and his family, and to enmesh his family in the business of governing.

Ari Berman at The Nation lists the reasons why Democrats are right in filibustering Neil Gorsuch, despite threats of a nuclear option:

The problem with [the save the firepower] argument is that it’s delusional to believe that Mitch McConnell—who prevented Merrick Garland from even receiving a hearing—would allow Democrats to filibuster the next Supreme Court vacancy if they allow Gorsuch to go through. If Justice Kennedy or a liberal justice like Ginsburg or Breyer stepped down and Republicans had the ability to overturn landmark laws like Roe v. Wade with a 6-to-3 vote, they would do everything in their power to make it happen and wouldn’t blink for a second about going nuclear. Moreover, because a number of red-state Democrats are up for reelection in 2018, Senate Democrats may have fewer seats and even less leverage when the next Supreme Court vacancy occurs.

The New Jersey Star Ledger calls out Trump for fawning over Egypt’s president:

Our President reiterated that he is “very much behind” Sisi, whom he has called a “fantastic guy,” despite the military strongman’s repressive and murderous record, including the repeated rape and electrocution of 14-year-olds.

He “took control of Egypt, and he really took control of it,” is how Trump has described it.

Sisi’s way of returning the compliment? To say he deeply appreciates Trump’s “unique” personality. […]

Yes, America under Trump has completely abandoned the cause of human rights and abdicated its role as a democratic leader in the world, for a new one: As fanboy of tyrants.

And, on a final note, here’s Eugene Robinson’s take on Jared Kushner, jack of all trades, master of none:

President Trump is apparently convinced that his son-in-law, who serves officially as a senior adviser, can fix anything. Make that everything…When you think about it, Kushner’s outsized role should be no surprise. The only kind of business Trump knows is family business; he started out working for his father, and now his children are his top lieutenants at the Trump Organization. In the way they put family above all else, there is a bit of the Corleones in the Trumps. Minus all the homicides.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka is also taking a senior — and unpaid — advisory post in the White House. This will put her in a good position to cover her husband’s flank — and he’ll need it.  […]

Access to the president equals power, and none of Kushner’s rivals can compete on that score. He is a callow young man who cannot possibly accomplish all that is being asked of him. But think what being Trump’s son-in-law must be like. Maybe peace in the Middle East doesn’t look so hard.

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