Not Normal
October 22, 2020

"President Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray after Election Day," less than four years into his 10-year term, The Washington Post reports. "Trump often complains about members of his Cabinet and contemplates dismissing them, without doing so," the Post concedes, but he is "increasingly frustrated" that "federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016."

Specifically, the Post says, Trump is agitated that neither Wray nor Attorney General William Barr has announced that "Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, or other Biden associates are under investigation," as then-FBI Director James Comey did with Hillary Clinton 11 days before the last presidential election, sending Clinton's poll numbers sliding.

Comey's decision to publicly disclose a reopened, ultimately fruitless investigation of Clinton's emails so close to the election was sharply criticized by Democrats and the Justice Department inspector general. It was also the official reason Trump fired Comey four years into his 10-year term.

Trump hasn't exactly kept his feelings secret. As his poll numbers remain dire weeks before Election Day, Trump "has intensified public calls for jailing his challenger, much as he did for Hillary Clinton," the Post notes. "Trump has called Biden a 'criminal' without articulating what laws he believes the former vice president has broken."

"Trump considers Wray one of his worst personnel picks," the Post reports, and many of his top aides and conservative media allies are similarly critical. Trump has also publicly floated the idea of firing Attorney General Barr, citing the lack of a pre-election report on the Russian investigation from U.S. Attorney John Durham.

"Trump was so focused on the Durham report that he would turn up the television volume when segments would air about it," the Post reports. "Trump has told allies that he once believed Barr would deliver 'scalps' in the form of Durham's findings, according to an adviser who recently spoke to Trump about it. 'But they aren't doing s---,' the president said, according to this person." Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

May 26, 2020

A 28-year-old staffer in a local Florida congressional office of Joe Scarborough, then a Republican congressman, died at work in 2001, fatally hitting her head on a desk after fainting due to an undiagnosed "floppy" heart valve, the medical examiner ruled at the time. Local officials never suspected foul play in the death of Lori Klausutis, and Scarborough himself was 900 miles away in Washington, but Trump resumed baselessly accusing him of murder over the weekend, The Washington Post recounts.

It was disturbing when Trump latched onto the false accusation in 2017, and it's making even some media allies uncomfortable now.

Scarborough, an MSNBC morning political talk show host, was friendly with Trump during and before the election but has since become a critic. That's one possible reason Trump is urging his followers to "keep digging, use forensic geniuses!"

Whatever Trump's motive, Klausutis had a family and a husband who struggled with her death then and are forced to relive it again, the Post reports. "Trump's tweets offer a reminder of the remarkable nature of the Trump era — that a sitting president can traffic in incendiary and false allegations while the political world around him remains largely silent, accustomed to Trump's modern-day definition of presidential behavior. As with many such eruptions from the White House, there will probably be little if any consequence beyond, in this case, the collateral suffering of a private family in Florida. A White House spokesman declined to comment." Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

August 8, 2018

Even before Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie was sworn in July 30, he discovered what his predecessor, David Shulkin, had known: The real power at the VA resides at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's private club in Florida, wielded by a triumvirate of Mar-a-Lago members led by Ike Perlmutter, the almost comically reclusive CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac Arnsdorf reports at ProPublica.

When Trump asked Perlmutter, a friend and confidante, to help put together his government in December 2016, he agreed to be an outside adviser, selected veterans as his focus, and roped in two other friends, Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskovitz and lawyer Marc Sherman, Arnsdorf says. The "Mar-a-Lago Crowd," as they're known among VA insiders, have secretly exerted sweeping influence on the VA ever since — even though none of the three has ever served in the U.S. military or government and appear to have no special knowledge of veterans issues.

Perlmutter, Moskowitz, and Sherman have pushed the VA to start new programs, some of which could benefit them personally, and essentially forced out or vetoed jobs for top officials — including Shulkin — who don't accede to their wishes, Arnsdorf says, basing his report on "hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with former administration officials." Shulkin, Wilkie, and other officials have flown down to consult with the triumvirate at Mar-a-Lago, at taxpayer expense. "Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring," a former administration official tells ProPublica.

The three men said through a crisis-communications consultant that they have "offered our help and advice on a voluntary basis" but "did not make or implement any type of policy, possess any authority over agency decisions, or direct government officials to take any actions." According to emails, VA officials treated the Mar-a-Lago Group's constant "advice" as orders. Read more about the bizarre arrangement Arnsdorf calls "without parallel in modern presidential history" at ProPublica. Peter Weber

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