Our Tiny-Fisted Fascist

Okay, it’s over. Charles Johnson puts it this way – Electoral College Rubber-Stamps the Election of the Tiny-Fisted Fascist – but it is over. These electors met and did what they were supposed to do, but not quite:

The seven so-called “faithless” votes cast by members of the Electoral College on Monday may go down as a noisy footnote to an otherwise chaotic 2016 election. But they also represent a historic breach between electors and the candidates they were expected to vote for.

The number of faithless votes has now become the most-ever cast in a single presidential election. The record was set in 1808, when six Democratic-Republican electors opposed James Madison. It’s also the first time since 1832 in which more than a single elector cast a faithless vote.

No one was happy:

The bulk of the votes came from Washington state, where three Democratic electors bucked Hillary Clinton and cast votes for Colin Powell, a retired general, an African-American – and a Republican. These Democrats were supporting a failed effort meant to block the election of Donald Trump and unite behind an alternative Republican candidate. Powell turned out to be their choice.

A fourth Washington state elector – Robert Satiacum – cast his ballot for Native American activist Faith Spotted Eagle. And a fifth vote against Clinton came late Monday in Hawaii, where one elector voted for Bernie Sanders.

The only two anti-Trump votes occurred in Texas. One, cast by elector Chris Suprun for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was expected. But a second, cast by an unknown elector for libertarian former Rep. Ron Paul, was a surprise.

It didn’t matter. This historic breach between electors and the candidates is now no more than a footnote, because it really is small and on January 20, Faith Spotted Eagle will not take the oath of office. Donald Trump will, and things may not go well:

The White House is struggling to prevent a crippling exodus of foreign policy staffers eager to leave before the arrival of the Trump administration, according to current and former officials.

The top level officials in the National Security Council (NSC) are political appointees who have to submit resignations and leave in a normal transition. The rest of the 400 NSC staff is career civil servants on secondment from other departments. An unusual number of these more junior officials are now looking to depart.

Obama is working hard on convincing them to stay, for the good of the country, and our national security, but they’d rather not be on loan to the NSC now:

Many are concerned by a proliferation of reports about the incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn. On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that Flynn had improperly shared classified information with foreign military officers. On the same day, CNN reported that the former Defense Intelligence Agency chief had this week deleted a tweet he had sent out a few days before the election that linked to a fake news story suggesting Hillary Clinton took part in crimes against children.

“Career people are looking get out and go back to their agencies and pressure is being put on them to get them to stay. There is concern there will be a half-empty NSC by the time the new administration arrives, which no one wants,” said one official.

Sure, but no one wants to work for a nut either – bad for the career, and bad for the soul too – and meanwhile, across town:

Reports from the state department suggest most of its staff is taking a wait-and-see approach to the prospect of having the ExxonMobil oil chief executive, Rex Tillerson, at the helm. On Thursday, most of the Democrats on the House foreign affairs committee wrote to the current secretary of state, John Kerry, offering his staff protection against a “witch-hunt” by the new administration against civil servants who worked on Obama policies Trump wants to reverse. The letter was sent after the energy department refused to hand over to the Trump transition team a list of names of staffers who had worked on climate change.

In short, the new administration will be pro-Russian and anti-science, but please stay – someone had to do the daily work – and we’ll make sure you’re not fired. But how can they assure that? Earlier in the month, Paul Waldman explained Michael Flynn:

Flynn, who was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was fired by President Obama for a number of reasons, including mismanagement. His staff got so used to him believing things that were obviously false that they began referring to them as “Flynn Facts.” Nevertheless, he had a complete certainty in his own rightness. At one meeting, “Mr. Flynn said that the first thing everyone needed to know was that he was always right. His staff would know they were right, he said, when their views melded to his.” Furthermore, “Some also described him as a Captain Queeg-like character, paranoid that his staff members were undercutting him and credulous of conspiracy theories.”

You can see it in his statements and writings since his retirement. Flynn believes that Islam is “a malignant cancer” that is actually “a political ideology” that “hides behind this notion of it being a religion.” He has tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” while posting an anti-Islamic video and asking people to “please forward this to others.” On his Twitter feed, he has a propensity for spreading fake news stories from the right-wing fever swamps.

Well, he did delete some of those, but the bulk of them were a bit odd:

Some of the looniest conspiracy theories Flynn has propagated have to do with stolen emails from John Podesta, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Right-wing conspiracy-mongers took a word here or there from some of the emails and spun them into allegations that Clinton and Podesta were involved in a Satanic cult and were running a child sex slavery ring out of a Washington pizza parlor. That might be funny, were it not for the fact that the restaurant and nearby establishments have been deluged with death threats and one guy took it seriously enough to drive to D.C. with his assault rifle in an attempt to “rescue” the children he thought were being held in the restaurant’s basement.

That’s what had to be deleted, but there’s more:

President-elect Donald Trump will tap Fox News’ Monica Crowley to be the senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, the transition team announced Thursday… Crowley, who is also an author and a radio show host, will serve under retired US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser…

Crowley will join fellow Fox News alum K. T. McFarland, who was named as a deputy national security advisor in late November.

Crowley has worked at Fox News since 1998 as a “political and international affairs analyst,” according to her bio that previously appeared on the news outlet’s website. She also worked as foreign policy assistant to former president Nixon and later worked with NPR and MSNBC.

That might not be too bad, but for this:

In June 2008, while guest-hosting Laura Ingraham’s radio show, Crowley cited a bizarre online “genealogy” (which she acknowledged she couldn’t “verify”) purporting to demonstrate that Obama is “not black African, he is Arab African.” She added: “And yet, this guy is campaigning as black and painting anybody who dares to criticize him as a racist. I mean that is – it is the biggest con I think I’ve ever seen.”

Crowley has also questioned whether Obama is really a “natural-born citizen,” and has said the “birth certificate issue” had “traction” because Obama’s policies are “un-American,” which “feeds into this idea that somehow, fair or not, Obama is not one of us.”

Neither the Trump transition team nor his spokesperson, Hope Hicks, responded to questions about Crowley’s past comments.

They don’t have to respond to questions. Faith Spotted Eagle is not the new president. Trump is. So it’s Flynn and the two Fox News babes running Trump’s National Security Council, and over at State, Rex Tillerson is running things – the ExxonMobil CEO who is a good friend of Vladimir Putin. Putin did award him that “Order of Friendship” after all – and Tillerson wants to drop all sanctions against Russia over that stuff in Crimea and the Ukraine. Gobbling up adjacent sovereign nations is an issue for diplomats. Sanctions are bad for business.

Security professionals and career diplomats are seeking alternative employment. They want no part of this – and government climate scientists have been frantically copying their raw data to safe and secure servers in Canada – because they know what’s coming. If they can’t save their career they can save that raw data – a bit of reality. Reality is useful.

That’s easy to say. But there’s a new reality in town now. Judd Legum of ThinkProgress reports that “members of the Trump Organization” have pressured the government of Kuwait to switch their annual National Day celebration in Washington from the Four Seasons to the Trump International:

In the early fall, the Kuwaiti Embassy signed a contract with the Four Seasons. But after the election, members of the Trump Organization contacted the Ambassador of Kuwait, Salem Al-Sabah, and encouraged him to move his event to Trump’s D.C. hotel, the source said.

Kuwait has now signed a contract with the Trump International Hotel, the source said, adding that a representative with the embassy described the decision as political. Invitations to the event are typically sent out in January.

Abdulaziz Alqadfan, First Secretary of the Embassy of Kuwait, told ThinkProgress last week that he couldn’t “confirm or deny” that the National Day event would be held at the Trump Hotel. Reached again Monday afternoon, Alqadfan did not offer any comment. An email sent directly to Ambassador Al-Sabah was not immediately returned.

Apparently the source here is a person “who has direct knowledge of the arrangements between the hotels and the embassy,” and that he was able to “review documentary evidence confirming the source’s account” – so this is a scoop, and Kevin Drum adds this:

I have a feeling that a lot of foreign governments are going to be getting phone calls from the Trump Organization over the next four years.

Now, Trump’s defense, if he bothers to offer one, will be that nothing happened. Someone in his company made a sales call to the Kuwaiti government, offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse, and closed the business. What’s wrong with that?

Well, it looks like a shakedown, but that’s the new reality:

Other organizations and officials have been unabashed in their efforts to curry favor with Trump through the hotel, which is housed in a building that the Trump Organization leases from the federal government. Foreign dignitaries openly admitted that they were booking rooms at the hotel in a friendly gesture to the President-elect; Azerbaijan and Bahrain announced receptions there; and the conservative Heritage Foundation reserved it for an event with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Ethics experts and the General Services Administration, which owns the building that houses the hotel, have told Trump he should revoke ownership of the hotel before inauguration day. The Trump Organization’s lease with the federal government explicitly states that no elected U.S. official may benefit from it.

Ah, but Trump is not benefiting from that, not exactly – America is. It’s pay for play – foreign governments will show how much they want to us to talk with them by booking events at Trump’s new hotel – but Trump doesn’t need the money. He just gets to keep it all – but that’s chump change to him. And this is just a hotel, not the Clinton Foundation or anything. Hillary wanted that pay-for-play money when she was secretary of state. Trump doesn’t need it. He can’t be bribed. That’s the big difference.

That’s also nonsense, but no one cares anymore, except for maybe Elizabeth Warren. Trump now has won the election, officially. Losers always resent successful people, and this doesn’t make Trump a tiny-fisted fascist. Charles Johnson was wrong, unless he was right:

President-elect Donald Trump has continued employing a private security and intelligence team at his victory rallies, and he is expected to keep at least some members of the team after he becomes president, according to people familiar with the plans.

The arrangement represents a major break from tradition. All modern presidents and presidents-elect have entrusted their personal security entirely to the Secret Service, and their event security mostly to local law enforcement, according to presidential security experts and Secret Service sources.

But Trump – who puts a premium on loyalty and has demonstrated great interest in having forceful security at his events – has opted to maintain an aggressive and unprecedented private security force, led by Keith Schiller, a retired New York City cop and Navy veteran who started working for Trump in 1999 as a part-time bodyguard, eventually rising to become his head of security.

This is no big deal, unless it is:

Security officials warn that employing private security personnel heightens risks for the president-elect and his team, as well as for protesters, dozens of whom have alleged racial profiling, undue force or aggression at the hands of Trump’s security, with at least 10 joining a trio of lawsuits now pending against Trump, his campaign or its security.

“It’s playing with fire,” said Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who worked on President Barack Obama’s protective detail during his 2012 reelection campaign. Having a private security team working events with Secret Service “increases the Service’s liability, it creates greater confusion and it creates greater risk,” Wackrow said…

Wackrow, who left the Secret Service in 2014 and is now executive director of a security company called RANE (short for Risk Assistance Network + Exchange), said if he were the lead agent at a Trump rally, “I wouldn’t allow it.” But he suggested it’s a tricky situation for the Secret Service. “What are they going to do, pick a fight with the president-elect and his advisers? That’s not a way to start a romance.”

Wackrow is thinking in practical terms, but it’s more than that:

The private security team has been present at each of the seven rallies on Trump’s post-election “Thank You Tour” and has removed protesters – sometimes roughly – at many stops.

That included about a dozen protesters during a rally [in Grand Rapids] on Dec. 9 in a minor-league arena called the Deltaplex, where Trump mostly shrugged off the interruptions until he became impatient with a particularly disruptive protester. “Get ’em out!” the president-elect instructed his private security. That appeared to spur Trump’s security director, Schiller, to venture away from the stage, where he arrived with Trump, and wade deep into the crowd to assist other private security personnel with the removal.

Before the end of the rally, Schiller returned to his place by Trump’s side, along with a Secret Service contingent of which he is often misidentified as a member. (Despite being – at 58 years old – significantly older than most agents, Schiller looks the part, invariably sporting a uniform of dark suits and white shirts, along with a Secret Service-issued perimeter pin, and maintaining an athletic 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound frame.) Together, the entourage accompanied Trump back to the airport, onto his plane and back to New York. It was the same routine as Schiller and Trump repeated countless times during the campaign, and it likely will be repeated countless more times over the coming years, since Schiller is expected to follow Trump into the White House, according to multiple sources on the transition team.

In interviews with about a dozen people who interact with Trump, they said even as the president-elect’s Secret Service detail has expanded significantly since the election, he remains most comfortable with Schiller and his team. A native of New Paltz, New York, and father of two, Schiller has been director of security for The Trump Organization since 2004.

Yes, Hitler had his own bodyguard. They wore black shirts. They morphed into the SS – but this cannot be like that, but it could:

Even after the arrival of Trump’s Secret Service detail, which typically marks the end of any pre-existing security arrangement, Schiller never strayed from his boss’ side.

The associates say Schiller provides more than just security. Trump has been known to ask Schiller’s opinion on all manner of subjects. When people want to reach Trump, they often call Schiller’s cellphone and he decides who gets through to the boss.

Photos often show Schiller looming over Trump’s shoulder as he works crowds, standing sentry by the stage as Trump speaks, or ejecting protesters from rallies. He’s developed a small but avid fan base on Twitter, where Trump supporters cheer Schiller’s confrontations with protesters, pose for selfies with him at events and backstage, and praise him as a brave “American Eagle” who kept Trump “safe & sound.”

And Schiller, a registered Republican, showed signs of reveling in Trump’s campaign, creating his own Twitter account just before the first primaries to promote the campaign and chronicle his unique perspective from the trail.

Heinrich Himmler was Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron – SS) and a leading member of the Nazi Party:

Schiller mostly remains – as one former campaign aide put it – “the most important man no one has ever heard of.”

That influence comes from Schiller’s ability to essentially control access to Trump, acting as his liaison to everyone from staff and well-wishers to dignitaries – and even Secret Service agents.

“Keith is kind of a consigliere,” said a transition team official. “He knows all the players, all the properties. He has the confidence of Trump and of the family. To describe him as a body guy would be very, very beneath the role that he actually plays.”

And this gets more curious:

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to respond to a series of questions about the private security officials, who is paying them, and their relationship with the Secret Service, whether they’re armed and what their roles will be after inauguration…

Trump transition team sources say the thank-you rallies are being funded by Trump’s campaign committee, but that Trump, as president, might headline rallies funded and organized by a still-in-the-works outside group that will be able to accept huge donations unbound by federal campaign limits.

That’s a bit worrying:

If Trump’s team continues funding the rallies using private money, it would have the right to “decide who can attend their events, including which opinions or speech they deem acceptable by attendees,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.

She co-wrote a post in March on the ACLU’s website bemoaning that the removal of protesters of color from this year’s presidential campaign rallies is “certainly not what we want our democracy to look like.”

Nonetheless, Rowland told POLITICO that as long as Trump’s campaign or an outside group “organizes and sets the rules for a private event, and a politician, including the president, is an invited guest, then the host can decide whether and when to revoke attendees’ invitations. That would make them trespassers and allow them to be legally removed.” If the rallies were funded or organized by the government, on the other hand, then only law enforcement could identify protesters for ejection and actually remove them, and only then for breaking the law, she said.

That’s been done:

Henry Brousseau – who alleges that he was punched in the stomach by Trump supporters after shouting “Black Lives Matter” at a March rally in Louisville, Kentucky – said Trump’s security “did not seem to be interested at all in public safety. They were there to keep the rally on message. They were being speech police.”

Brousseau, who was a high school senior at the time, and two fellow protesters were ejected. And now they’re suing Trump and his campaign, as well as the convention center for failing to provide adequate security, while also claiming that Trump’s calls to “get ’em out” were “calculated to incite violence against the plaintiffs.”

Brousseau said “it is a pattern of silencing his opponents” that is “unpresidential, undemocratic and un-American.”

Another lawsuit was filed three weeks before the election, in part by an African-American man who alleges he was punched, kicked and called racial slurs by Trump supporters at a November 2015 Trump rally in Birmingham, even after security arrived on the scene – all while Trump yelled “get him the hell out of here!” It calls on Trump’s campaign, the convention center and the city of Birmingham “to pay for damages, institute new procedures for security and issue a public apology to those who attended the rally in question and to the residents of Birmingham.”

A third lawsuit alleges that Schiller and two other Trump security officers assaulted a handful of protesters during a raucous protest outside the campaign’s Manhattan headquarters in September.

In an affidavit in the case, Schiller acknowledged that he struck one of the protesters in the head.

Maybe the Electoral College did rubber-stamp the election of the tiny-fisted fascist after all – but that’s over now – and this is how the Trump years begin. It’s a new world.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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