Tag Archives: White House

Security clearance plot thickens

So now the plot continues to thicken inside the White House.

A longtime White House staffer who works on issuing security clearances for key administration personnel has told congressional investigators that the Trump administration has issued top-secret clearances to individuals who had been denied them for a variety of reasons.

Tricia Newbold has worked under four administrations, Democrat and Republican, dating back to 2000. She said the Trump White House has been amazingly lax in its security-clearance procedures. Imagine that, will ya? Who knew?

As the New York Times has reported:

Described as both “no nonsense” and “intense” by people who have interacted with her during the clearance process, Ms. Newbold has served under four presidential administrations, beginning with the Clinton White House in 2000. Eventually she worked her way up to adjudications manager, a job that required her to help make determinations about the security clearances of administration employees. Her office is filled with holdovers from other administrations, and it is meant to be nonpartisan.

Yet in the Trump administration the office was filled with people who had little experience in vetting employees in the interest of national security, Ms. Newbold said in a nine-hour deposition with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week.

I keep thinking of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, garnering clearances even though neither of them had a lick of national security experience prior to Daddy Trump becoming president of the United States.

The president denied running interference for either of them. Others have reported, though, that he most certainly did.

Again, from the NY Times:

John F. Kelly, the president’s former chief of staff, wrote in a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kusher the top-secret clearance. In her interviews with the House committee, Ms. Newbold said that Mr. Kelly and Joe Hagin, the former deputy chief of staff, had been attentive to the national security issues she had tried to raise.

Gosh, do you think there might be a national security risk being presented inside the White House’s West Wing?

I do. It frightens me.

Congressional toxicity is flaring to dangerous level

So . . . just how toxic is the atmosphere in Congress, if not in all of Washington, D.C.?

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff provided a critical example.

Committee Republicans today demanded that Schiff resign as chairman of the committee. Donald Trump has called on Schiff to quit Congress altogether. GOP Intelligence Committee member Mike Conaway of Midland said Schiff no longer has the standing to lead the committee and said he should resign immediately.

Schiff has been a stern critic of Donald Trump. He maintains that the president’s campaign did collude with Russians despite special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to the contrary.

Schiff then took the microphone after Conaway’s lecture and gave it right back to his GOP colleagues. He held firm on his assertion that there was collusion. “You might say that’s all OK,” Schiff said. “You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK. I think it is immoral, I think it is unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt.”

Yes, it is highly toxic on Capitol Hill. The mood between Congress and the White House is equally toxic.

Why mention it? Because it seems different now than any era I can recall. President Bush 43 managed to maintain working relationships with the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy; President Reagan famously befriended House Speaker Tip O’Neill, his after-hours drinking buddy; President Bush 41 also maintained strong friendships with House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski; President Clinton managed to work with House Speaker Newt Gingrich to craft a balanced federal budget.

These days we hear Donald Trump calling Adam Schiff “pencil neck.” He is throwing out “traitorous” and “treasonous” terms to describe Democrats behavior during the special counsel’s probe into alleged collusion; and, yes, Democrats have tossed those terms at the White House, too.

Good government requires leaders of both political parties to find common ground. Dear reader, there ain’t a bit of commonality to be found these days. Anywhere!

It is going to get more divisive, more toxic the deeper we plow into the 2020 election season. After that remains anyone’s guess.

It is no fun — none at all — watching these men and women tear each others’ lungs out. Too many important matters are going unresolved because of the outright hatred one senses among politicians across the aisle that divides them.

One-note samba won’t cut it on campaign trail

I’ll give Washington Gov. Jay Inslee plenty of credit for candor.

He announced his candidacy the other day for president of the United States declaring right up front, out loud and for all the world to see and hear that he’s running on one issue only: climate change and the peril it poses for the world’s most powerful nation.

Fine. What about the rest of the job, governor? What about, oh, let’s see: fighting terrorism, creating jobs, fiscal responsibility, dealing with cybersecurity, border security? There are a whole lot of other issues, too.

Inslee wants to make climate change the strongest plank in his platform on which to seek the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2020.

I don’t dispute the urgency he is placing on the matter. I do dispute whether it’s enough all by itself to commend him for nomination and election.

Just as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is running on economic inequality, which kind of mirrors Issue No. 1 for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Inslee is staking his candidacy on a single issue.

We have Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar in the hunt already. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado is in. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is, too. I know I’m missing someone. There’s too many of ’em to keep up.

The Democratic Party field has reached a dozen candidates so far. There will be more. Many more, or so it appears. Texan Beto O’Rourke appears to be set to go. Former Vice President Joe Biden is letting it slip out that his family is all in on his running for president.

They all need to demonstrate a well-rounded, well-considered and well-tested competence on an array of domestic and foreign policy issues. Climate change is a big one. So is income inequality.

Spare me, though, the one-note samba. I tend to tire of hearing the same thing coming out of candidates’ mouths.

We’ve already elected an incompetent business mogul/boob to the nation’s highest office. We don’t need to train another president on the vast complexities of the nation’s highest office.

Gratuitous Liar in Chief strikes again

Donald Trump has shown just how incapable he is of telling the truth.

The president of the United States has enormous power within the executive branch of government. He knows it. I know it. You know it. He can do virtually anything he wants, providing he isn’t breaking the law.

Granting security clearances, even to those who don’t deserve them, is fully within the president’s power as the nation’s chief executive.

Why, though, does the president of the United States — Donald John Trump — have to lie about whether he interceded to get his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance?

He said he didn’t do it. He insisted he didn’t force anyone to grant Kushner such a clearance.

But . . . but, he has the power! He would be acting totally within his authority to do so. And he did do what he is empowered to do. By lying about whether he intervened on Kushner’s behalf, the president has doubled his trouble.

Sure, he could be criticized for greasing the clearance for Kushner. Why? Because his son-in-law has no security credentials. He doesn’t deserve access to the kind of information he gets with such a clearance.

Now, though, the president is getting pummeled because he is demonstrating his penchant for gratuitous lying.

Now it’s Jared Kushner in the hot seat . . . sheesh!

Good grief! My head is hurting.

As if the scandals surrounding the president’s possible violation of the Emoluments Clause, the Robert Mueller investigation, the hush money payments to a porn star weren’t enough — now we hear that the First Son-in-Law, Jared Kushner is the midst of yet another potential scandal.

Donald Trump said he didn’t do anything to grease it for Kushner to get a top-secret security clearance to work in the White House. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, said the same thing.

Then comes reporting that — yep! — the president did, in fact, order that Kushner get the security clearance. The president threw his weight around to assure that Kushner, the guy with zero government experience or exposure, would get the top clearance offered to key White House advisers.

When does this baloney stop? When do we stop being jarred by the president’s astonishing lies?

I think I know when it’ll happen. That will occur when Donald Trump walks out of the White House for the final time.

Oh, how I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Just wondering: What about that ‘anonymous’ essayist?

It just dawned on me: In 2018 when that anonymous essay appeared in the New York Times that talked about the “resistance” within the White House, Donald Trump said he was going to root out who wrote it and take appropriate action.

The essayist said there were members of the “resistance” who were concerned about the president’s curious impulses and worked to protect the nation against some rash decision Trump was capable of making.

The essayist said he or she was part of a group of White House staffers who are concerned about the president’s ability to do something that endangered the nation.

Trump as furious, enraged, angry to the max. He was fuming. He vowed to root out the author and then on it.

What happened to that effort? Has the White House swept it away? Has the president given up the search? Did he find the culprit, scold him or her?

C’mon! Some of us — maybe many of us — want to know these things.

Read it here. It’s still a fascinating essay.

Trump’s boast about working hard rings hollow

Donald Trump’s brainless boast about being the hardest-working president in U.S. history rings as hollow as his many other such fits of braggadocio.

He has bragged about his wealth, how he has the “best brain,” how he knows “the best words,” how he attended the “best schools.”

Now in response to the revelations about the “executive time” he takes as president and reports of how he spends huge amounts of that time watching TV and firing off Twitter message, he has decided to brag about how hard he works at making America great again.

My life’s experience has taught me a lot about people.

I have learned that rich folks don’t brag about their wealth, geniuses don’t boast about their intellect, the well-educated don’t brag about the quality of the schools they attend.

I also have learned that heroes don’t brag about their heroic exploits and those who work hard don’t feel the need to remind us of the time put into the jobs they do.

The president of the United States appears to act like the most insecure man ever to hold that high office.

Sad.

Please, Mr. POTUS, no shutdown . . . again!

OK, Mr. President, you once said you would be “proud” to take responsibility for shutting down part of the federal government in pursuit of The Wall along our southern border.

Then you made good on that prideful pledge. The government shuttered for more than a month, the longest ever such demonstration of political idiocy in U.S. history.

So here we are again. Some of us thought, Mr. President, there might be a deal in the works. The New York Times reported over the weekend that you and congressional Democrats were close to a deal in principle. Then it ended. The talks wilted.

Do you really intend to take pride in another one of these idiotic demonstrations? Do you really intend to deny more federal workers of their paychecks? Do you really mean to create this kind of chaos in their households, the kind that matches at times what is happening inside the White House?

You can knock off the “national emergency” bullsh** as well, Mr. President. There is no such emergency occurring on the border. Those crime-ridden cities you keep mentioning? They’re among the safest in the country.

While we’re at it, have you mentioned the crime in northern border cities such as, say, Detroit? The Motor City sits on the Canadian border. Is there a connection between its proximity to an international border and the crime that plagues it? Hey, I am just asking, Mr. President.

If you hadn’t looked Sen. Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the eye in that goofy Oval Office meeting and said you would be proud to shut down the government, I wouldn’t lay this at your feet.

You, though, say you’re The Man. You keep insisting you’re the best deal maker in human history. You keep telling us about the “fine-tuned machine” you are running inside the White House.

Make the deal, Mr. President. The Wall already is under construction in places. Democrats don’t favor “open border,” nor do they want criminals pouring into the country. For you to say such a thing is just another shameful example of fear-mongering.

Stop the demagoguery. Do not allow the government to shut down again. This ain’t how you lead, Mr. President.

Beto vs. Cornyn in 2020?

Beto O’Rourke reportedly is pondering whether to run for president of the United States in 2020. He told Oprah Winfrey he will decide by the end of March if he’s in the White House hunt. I believe the former Democratic congressman from West Texas has gotten stars in his eyes.

I would vote for him if lightning were to strike and he would face Donald Trump in the general election. However, he is not my first choice to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

I’ve got that off my chest.

James Henson, director of the Texas Public Policy Project at the University of Texas-Austin, thinks O’Rourke’s best option is to challenge Sen. John Cornyn next year. Henson believes O’Rourke — who came within a chip shot of beating Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 — could defeat Cornyn.

Beto’s bubble isn’t about to burst. His candidacy against Cruz energized a heretofore moribund Texas Democratic Party as he campaigned in all 245 Texas counties. The GOP-heavy state hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide for more than two decades.

Is it time for a viable Democrat to crash through that wall in 2020? Perhaps. James Henson believes Beto is better suited to run against Cornyn than to take on a gigantic Democratic Party presidential primary field.

Henson wrote an essay for the Washington Post right after the 2018 election. You can see it here.

Whatever the young man from El Paso decides is in his future, it is becoming obvious that he intends to remain in pubic life. He wants to be elected to some sort of public office. I am not yet convinced he is ready to become president of the United States, although given a choice between Beto and The Donald in 2020, I wouldn’t flinch before casting my vote for the Texas Democrat.

However, I am thinking along the lines that James Henson has put forth: Beto O’Rourke stands a better chance of winning if he decides to take on Sen. John Cornyn.

Cliff Sims: from nowhere to center of attention

How do some people manage to emerge suddenly and dramatically from the weeds to the center of the political arena?

I refer to a young man named Cliff Sims, who’s written a book called “Team of Vipers,” in which he chronicles the chaos and confusion that has dictated the flow of events inside the Donald Trump operation at the White House.

I had never heard of Cliff Sims prior to this week. I don’t know what he did in the White House. He is making the TV talk circuit promoting his book. He has said he attended meetings with the president in the Oval Office, in his private office, in the Cabinet room. Trump, to no one’s surprise, denies that Sims had that kind of access.

Do I believe the president’s account of their relationship? Uhh, no. I don’t. I mean, the president lies constantly, even when there’s no need. Do I believe Sims’s account of their relationship? Let me think. I don’t yet know.

He is not the first tell-all author to spill what he considers to be the beans on Donald Trump. He likely won’t be the final one.

However, he becomes the latest social media instant celebrity, someone who reveals himself under the glare of media scrutiny.

I’ll just add that the title of his book, “Team of Vipers,” does seem to ring true. At least it does to my eyes and ears.