The scandals surrounding the Turdpol Kakistocracy continue to mount every single day. In fact, there hasn’t been a moment in this scoundrel’s presidency when there haven’t been questions about its conduct swirling around. This week it’s a scandal over when the White House knew that one of its high-level employees was a wife beater who was vulnerable to blackmail, and an old (by that, I mean mere weeks) scandal resurfaced about hush money paid to a porn actress.
Meanwhile, the White House submitted a budget for next year that manages to explode the deficit, guts entitlements, and outright lies about federal spending on infrastructure improvement, amongst other outrages. But my favorite piece of conservative fuckery in the proposed budget is the idea of replacing 50% of a recipient’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) money with box of food chosen and delivered by the government. That’s right. No longer would SNAP recipients get to choose where they buy half their food and what that food consists of. Under this budget, Uncle Sam will distribute rations. This has the wonderful effect of instantly creating an underclass, while at the same time taking money out of the economy by denying business to local grocery stores. It would also result in waste as people who got the boxes would discard food they didn’t like.
It’s one of the most disrespectful pieces of proposed legislation I’ve seen in a long time, as if poor people all of a sudden forfeit their right to choose what they eat because they’re poor. The thought process, which makes total sense to the conservative mind, seems to be that if these recipients were capable of making responsible choices, they wouldn’t be poor, therefore we wouldn’t have to make these food choices for them. It’s insulting, lacks empathy, and fits right into how the ideology of the right thinks about modern society’s economic unfortunates. It will never be part of any budget that actually makes its way to Trump’s desk for his signature, but still, the gall.
Now, back to the scandals.
Two days ago, one of Trump’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, said he paid porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 of his own money. He didn’t specifically say that it was paid to keep her silent about an affair with Trump, but that was the message that came across. This is a weeks-old scandal that had gone away. But then Cohen opened his mouth, possibly breaking the non-disclosure agreement that Daniels had signed, releasing Daniels to write a tell-all book and go on as many television shows as possible to tell her story. Nice work.
But the Rob Porter scandal is something else — an exercise in how not to avoid scandal. Last week, it emerged that Rob Porter, the Staff Secretary for Donald Trump, i.e., the guy who sees everything that comes across the president’s desk before the president sees it, had been working on a temporary security clearance because he failed his background check. He failed his background check because he beat his two ex-wives during their marriages. Not only does this make Porter a despicable human being, it also left him open to blackmail, which is a bad position for the PRESIDENT’S SECRETARY to be in.
It didn’t take long for Porter to resign his position after news broke, but since then, the story has been the changing claims out of the White House about when they knew about the abuse. On February 8th, the day after Porter resigned, the White House claimed, when asked why they had not acted on the abuse allegations earlier, that Porter’s background investigation was still ongoing. Then on the 12th, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the White House learned of the allegations on the 6th, and “…within 24 hours, his [Porter’s] resignation had been accepted and announced.”
But then Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, the agency that carries out background checks for federal employees, testified under oath before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee that Porter’s background investigation been completed during the summer, and that a follow-up had been completed last November. In other words, the White House knew about the abuse allegations against Porter for at least three months before the story broke, yet continued to let him work at a desk mere feet from the Oval Office.
This is a level of incompetence and hubris on the part of the White House that is astounding. They had to know that the allegations against Porter would come out, but they didn’t care. It would be nice if other places showed as much loyalty to their employees as they did to Porter, but this is the White House. The people who run the country have to be held to a higher standard because of the stakes. Also, it is a matter of national security that those charged with our secrets are not vulnerable to outside influences. My goodness, this is a White House that is fighting off allegations that they colluded with a hostile foreign power to influence an election and then they let a vulnerable employee hold onto his very significant position, why? Because they liked the guy? Because he was a power bat on the softball team? What good reason could there have been to continue employing someone who could not pass a background check when Washington is crawling with competent people who could have?
The Porter scandal is an unforced error that is more evidence the administration lacks the basic competence to run this country. It has also resulted in information coming out that over a hundred other people in the White House had been working under temporary security clearances since at least last November. How many of them have skeletons in their closets that Chief of Staff John Kelly and the president are ignoring?