TrumpWatch, Day 222: “What a Crowd!” — Trump’s Texas Photo-Op Doesn’t Mention Victims

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Trump tries to project leadership with emphasis on “big” hurricane and “big” response


Developments on Day 222 of the Trump Administration:

Trump’s Hurricane Line: “What a Crowd! What Support”

Donald Trump has visited Texas during the rescue and recovery operations after Hurricane Henry, featuring himself at a an impromptu rally in Corpus Christi — about 200 miles from damaged Houston and 30 miles from the most heavily-stricken area — and visiting the response headquarters in Austin.

Seeking to project his leadership of the federal, state, and local efforts, Trump mounted a raised platform in Corpus Christi, where several hundred supporters just happened to show up as he left the firehouse.

“What a crowd! What support!” Trump exulted, grabbing a Texas flag and proclaiming that the greatness of the state would triumph.

The exclamation was a direct refrain of Trump’s opening statement at his rally last week in Arizona, where he — angered that the crowd was far less than desired — railed for 75 minutes about his enemies.

Yesterday Trump avoided the confrontation, in contrast to initial tweets after the hurricane that repeated the futile promise that Mexico will pay for a border wall and that gloated over his win in Missouri in last year’s Presidential election.

But both the Corpus Christi speech and the statement from Austin ignored victims, their families, and those who have lost homes and possessions. Instead, Trump continued his exultation of how “big” the hurricane and the crisis is, while acknowledging the rescue efforts: “It’s a real team, and we want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it.”

Trump did not mention the disjuncture between those efforts and his proposed large budget cuts for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Flood Insurance Program, disaster relief efforts in other agencies, and climate change programs.

Trump’s officials have also revoked an Obama administration rule requiring construction projects which may be federally-funded to consider climate change risks — for example, by elevating structures in flood zones.

Accompanied by his wife Melania, in her six-inch stiletto heels, Trump stuck closely to officials and did not tour shelters or visiting local residents.

As Ben Carson, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary, explained the relief efforts, Trump summarized Hurricane Harvey, “Sounds like such an innocent name, Ben, right? But it’s not innocent.”

But for the moment, Trump is benefiting from relatively gentle treatment by the media — even outlets who have done the most detailed reporting on his travails and those of his Administration — as well as the cloak of the Texas State GOP and a staff that has limited his Twitter activity since his initial post-hurricane burst.

Five Republican members of the Texas congressional delegation, including Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, praised Trump and Governor Greg Abbott for “an extraordinary job”.

The New York Times headline followed the White House script, “Trump, in Texas, Calls Harvey Recovery Response Effort a ‘Real Team’”. Even Trump’s foe CNN gave him a half-supportive banner by featuring the comments of Republican politicians, “Trump Wins Praise in Texas, but Keeps Empathy at Bay”.


Defense Secretary Rebuffs Trump: Transgender Personnel Continue Service in Military

Rejecting an order from Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announces transgender troops will continue to serve in the US military pending a review by the Pentagon.

Last month Trump used a tweet to declare a ban on service, falsely citing high medical costs for transgender personnel. The declaration tried to overturn a 2016 Obama Administration decision which was being reviewed by experts for its efficacy.

Trump issued his order last Friday, commanding implementation within six month. He said no transgender person could join the military Mattis — in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, which oversees the Coast Guard — “provides a recommendation to the contrary that I find convincing.

It was unclear whether Trump was commanding that those already in service had to be dismissed.

But Mattis — who effectively rebuked Trump over the defense of US values last weekend, in an address to troops in Jordan — said in a Tuesday statement:

Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction.

In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.


House Intelligence Committee Member: Trump May Be Called to Testify

A leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says Donald Trump may be called to testify in the expanding Trump-Russia investigation.

Eric Swalwell of California said Trump may be summoned in light of revelations about the pursuit by the Trump Organization of a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow, amid the opening months of Trump’s campaign for the Presidency.

Swalwell said Felix Sater, a business associate of the Trump Organization who worked with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen on the possible deal, is expected to appear.

Cohen asked Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov to intercede as the negotiations stalled in January 2016.

See TrumpWatch, Day 221: Trump’s Lawyer Approached Kremlin for Help in January 2016
How Donald Trump, Running for President, Sought Deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow

“This is a bright light in an ever growing constellation of contacts between Donald Trump and Russia,” Swalwell said on Tuesday.


Trump: “Thank You, Finland, For Buying Our Warplanes”; Finland: “We Didn’t”

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto denies a statement by Donald Trump that Helsinki is buying new fighter jets from US planemaker Boeing.

“One of the things that is happening is you’re purchasing large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing and it’s one of the great planes, the great fighter jets,” Trump said on Monday at a press conference alongside Niinisto.

The Finnish President, while surprised, said nothing at the time. However, he later told Finnish reporters, “It seems that on the sale side, past decisions and hopes about future decisions have mixed … The purchase is just starting, and that is very clear here.”

Finland is replacing its ageing fleet of 62 F/A-18 Hornet jets with multi-role fighter aircraft, at an estimated cost of 7-10 billion euros ($8.35 billion to $12 billion) by 2025.

Helsinki is expected to request that European and U.S planemakers provide quotations for new jets in 2018.

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