President Trump and his allies marked the 1,000th day of his administration by escalating their broad daylight assault on American law and decency. In an extraordinarily bananas press conference, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced that next year's G7 meeting would be held at the Trump Doral Resort in Florida and then admitted to extorting the government of Ukraine for 2020 campaign help — the very allegation that led to the House's impeachment inquiry.
These outrages were not unrelated, as the president continues to push against the outer boundaries of what might be tolerated by his congressional apologists. The G7 bombshell was dropped almost the moment the press conference began, and we should linger for a minute on the insane logic that Mulvaney used to justify this "decision." He claimed that the administration sent out teams to scout 10 different potential locations, but after visiting the Trump Doral, they returned to Mulvaney and said, "Mick, you're not going to believe this, but it's almost like they built this facility to host this type of event."
Obviously, this, like the invented conversations Trump has with his imaginary generals, is a conversation that never happened, but run-of-the-mill fabulism is priced into the Trump era at this point. When a reporter asked how this wasn't a conflict of interest, Mulvaney replied, "First off, you're not making any profit," and the reporter followed up, "It's a marketing and branding opportunity." Mulvaney then went deep into hostage mode, claiming that "Donald Trump's brand is probably strong enough as it is, and he doesn't need any more help on that," because the word "Trump'' is now "the most recognizable word in the English language." Again, this kind of nauseating, up-is-down subservience is the new normal in Washington.
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It's worth reading through the whole exchange for the genuinely breathtaking combination of arrogance and contempt for everyone's intelligence on display. Mulvaney claimed that two of the 10 finalists for the G7 were Trump properties — totally on the merits! He dismissed questions about violations of the Constitution's emoluments clause with the evidence-free claim that "We will not be profiting here." The incredulous reporters kept coming at him. "There has to be other good places without the president's name on them." Mulvaney replied that those other places weren't suitable because the G7 will be held in early June, "which limits it a little bit." He claimed previous meetings at Camp David were "a disaster."
One thing to keep in mind is that it's extraordinarily unlikely that the G7 summit will be held at the Trump Doral next year, a place that is uglier than a roadside Motel 6 and comically incapable of providing the kind of security needed to host heads of state and their enormous entourages. The mayor of Doral was not consulted. And unlike the tinpot stooges with whom Trump sparks up his little bromances, one can imagine the leaders of France, Germany, and whoever is running what is left of the United Kingdom next year telling the president they will not be attending any meeting at a Trump resort, particularly if it looks like the president is months away from getting creamed by his Democratic opponent in the election. An invitation to the G7 meeting is not a subpoena, and even if it were, the president and his team have taught us everything we need to know about them anyway.
It seems more likely that Mulvaney was given the order to foreground this Doral nonsense to distract from this week's embarrassing fiasco in Syria, especially the pitiful, amateurish letter that the president sent to Turkish President Racep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan reportedly threw the missive in the trash where, admittedly, it truly does belong. The "cease-fire" that Trump's slavish apologists were bragging about last night has already been violated, and the truth is plain enough for anyone to see: The president impulsively committed what might be the gravest foreign policy mistake since the Iraq War, and did so in a way that subjected people who bled and died for us to needless reprisals and killings. Cowardice and stupidity are a lethal combination.
So: You can see why Mulvaney maybe didn't want to talk about that. Doral was the plan, anyway, until Mulvaney went and stepped in it on Ukraine later in the presser. When asked by reporters why President Trump had held up nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, Mulvaney gave a long, rambling answer in which he first compared corruption in Ukraine to Puerto Rico, and then said, "Did he also mention to me in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money."
For those of you not steeped in lunatic conspiracy theories, the acting chief of staff of the president of the United States is referring credulously to the allegation that the DNC server hacked by Russians in 2016 is actually being held in Ukraine, and that Democrats staged the attack as a hoax to help Clinton win. Before you ask, "Why would the Clinton campaign hack itself and leak an endless series of damaging emails in the run-up to the election?" rest assured that this is Pizzagate-level insanity that does not deserve to soak up a single neuron of your memory.
Stunned reporters gave Mulvaney a chance to walk back "that's why we held up the money" but he dug in. Maybe the effort of spinning the G7 outrage just broke his brain. But he kept going. A reporter asked, "So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?" Mulvaney: "The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate." After the same reporter said, "what you just described is a quid pro quo," Mulvaney replied with the claim that will haunt him for the next several months.
"We do that all the time in foreign policy."
Mulvaney's stunning admission, which he later halfheartedly tried to retract in another hallmark of the Trump era — admit it all, sort of deny it, do it again but bigger and louder and stupider and more gratuitously — validates the Democrats' impeachment inquiry without a single hearing.
It's all out there now. The president schemed to extort the Ukrainian government to influence the 2020 election. The president is unabashedly using his position to boost the bottom line at his own properties. Remember, these things are illegal. These people just don't care anymore. They are like alcoholic Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas deciding to just drink himself to death. They need it. They live for it. At this point, to paraphrase The Atlantic's Adam Serwer, the flagrant corruption is the point. President Trump's ability to commit crimes in the open, to then send his sycophants out to admit them and continue to face zero consequences is part of his dark power over us, part of the lib-triggering industrial complex that provides almost all the energy on the right today.
Welcome to Day 1,001.
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