Incompetence and Corruption

Look, this is a murky, complicated issue. But this much we know: Kushner attended a secret meeting whose stated purpose was to advance a Kremlin effort to interfere in the U.S. election, he then failed to report it, and finally he sought a secret channel to communicate with the Kremlin.

One next step is clear: Take away Jared Kushner’s security clearance immediately.
- Nicholas Kristof, All Roads Now Lead to Kushner, NYT, JULY 13, 2017

President Trump’s plans to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic were disrupted on Monday as he came under pressure to abandon a nominee for drug czar who championed legislation undercutting the government’s power to go after pharmaceutical companies that contribute to the crisis. ...
The legislation pressed by Mr. Marino was the result of a concerted industry campaign to change the authority of the Drug Enforcement Administration in a way that would make it more difficult to stop the flow of painkillers to the black market. The law, passed last year, made it nearly impossible for the D.E.A. to freeze suspicious shipments of drugs, according to documents cited by The Post.

The law was a top priority of the drug industry, which spent $106 million lobbying Congress from 2014 to 2016. Mr. Marino, who received nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees representing the industry, according to The Post, was one of the leaders in pushing the bill. Congress passed it with many legislators unaware of its real effect, and President Barack Obama signed it into law, also unaware of its import, according to former administration officials cited by The Post.
- PETER BAKER, Trump Says He’ll Consider Pulling Drug Czar Nomination, OCT. 16, 2017

Monday’s indictments offer evidence of things that Washington already knows but pretends to forget. Trump, more gangster than entrepreneur, has long surrounded himself with bottom-feeding scum, and for all his nationalist bluster, his campaign was a vehicle for Russian subversion.
- Michelle Goldberg, The Plot Against America, NYT, OCT. 30, 2017

In a 2017 Quinnipiac survey that asked 1,211 American voters for the first word that comes to mind when they think of president Trump, the top three responses were "idiot," "liar," and "incompetent".
- Quinnipiac Poll, December 12, 2017

Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate. He trusted his own expertise ­— no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.” ...
To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus were simply incomprehensible.
- MICHAEL WOLFF, Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President, New York Magazine, January 3, 2018

America’s voting systems, like all large and complex computerized systems, are highly vulnerable to cyberattack — whether by altering or deleting voter-registration data, or even by changing vote counts. “The vast majority of technical infrastructure for our voting is absolutely, without doubt, woefully insecure,” said Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania computer-science professor who studies voting machine security. Both of the primary methods by which Americans cast their ballots — optical-scan machines and touch-screen monitors — can be tampered with fairly easily.
- The Editorial Board, America’s Elections Could Be Hacked. Go Vote Anyway., NYT, Oct. 19, 2018

On Nov. 12, 2016, Mr. Banks met President-elect Trump in Trump Tower. Upon his return to London, Mr. Banks had another lunch with the Russian ambassador where they discussed the Trump visit.

“From what we’ve seen, the parallels between the Russian intervention in Brexit and the Russian intervention in the Trump campaign appear to be extraordinary,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“The Russians were apparently dangling gold mines and diamond mines and financial incentives behind one of the largest backers of Brexit,” he added.
- David D. Kirkpatrick and Matthew Rosenberg, Russians Offered Business Deals to Brexit’s Biggest Backer, NYT, June 29, 2018

Russians have long been doing favors for Mr. Trump. In the 1980s, a Russian criminal named David Bogatin bought five Trump Tower apartments with $6 million in laundered funds. In the 1990s, the Russian Mafia favored the Atlantic City Taj Mahal, in part, because of the casino’s lax money laundering controls. The Trump SoHo in Lower Manhattan, unveiled in 2006 on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” was reportedly developed with the help of an alleged gangster from the former Soviet Union.

Another favor, one involving Russia, is what landed Mr. Cohen at the center of Robert Mueller’s investigation. As Mr. Cohen knew, Mr. Trump had long sought — going back to the mid-1980s — to put his name on a building in Moscow. It’s no coincidence that the deal for Trump’s long-denied Moscow tower started to come together after he announced his run for the White House.

Mr. Mueller’s sentencing memorandum notes that in November 2015, Mr. Cohen was approached by a Russian who claimed to be a “trusted person” who offered the campaign “political synergy” with Russia and repeatedly proposed a meeting between Mr. Trump and Vladimir Putin. Such a meeting, Mr. Cohen was told, would have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well.” Mr. Cohen passed because he was working with his old friend — and a business associate of Mr. Trump’s — Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant and convicted felon (he pleaded guilty in a stock-manipulation scheme) with deep ties to Russia.

The two old friends sought to put together a deal for a Moscow tower that would reportedly have included a $50 million penthouse set aside for Russia’s president. The involvement of Russian government officials in the project suggests the Kremlin had a notion that the tower was the shiny bauble that Russia could use to draw Mr. Trump into a compromising position.

Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. lieutenant colonel skilled in the art of manipulation, certainly seems to understand that Mr. Trump’s world runs on favors. After all, the Russian president did Mr. Trump the biggest favor of them all. Mr. Putin turned his intelligence services into a virtual extension of the Trump campaign, hacking emails out of the Democratic Party’s computer networks. That, together with the finely tuned, voluminous social messaging pumped out by internet trolls in St. Petersburg, Russia, may have tipped the scales in a close election.
- Seth Hettena, The Dangers of Doing Favors for Donald Trump, NYT, Dec. 10, 2018

The man pivotal to Hitler’s appointment was Paul von Hindenburg. The ageing president had met Hitler for the first time in 1931 but was far from impressed with the NSDAP leader. This was partly due to simple class snobbery: Hindenburg was a Prussian general and a member of the Junker elite, while Hitler was a former corporal from a humble background, who spoke with a distinctive Austrian accent. Hindenburg nevertheless gave the Nazi leader a hearing but was decidedly unimpressed with his grandiose political ambitions and his vague plans. The president suggested Hitler might make a good postmaster, but that was about all. He scoffed at suggestions that Hitler might eventually lead the government. “Gentlemen,” he told political advisors, “I hope you will not hold me capable of appointing this Austrian corporal to be Reich chancellor.” ...
Also encouraging Hitler’s appointment behind the scenes was Franz von Papen. A conservative who had himself been chancellor until November, when he was dumped in favour of von Schleicher, von Papen was a self-interested intriguer, who saw in Hindenburg’s uncertainty an opportunity to restore his own influence. He urged the president to consider replacing von Schleicher with Hitler. He eased Hindenburg’s concerns about Nazi fanaticism by suggesting that Hitler, for all his grand intentions and personal intensity, was a political novice; once in power, he could be kept in check and easily controlled. ...
“In two months time we will have squeezed Hitler into a corner until he squeaks”, von Papen told a confidant.
- Jennifer Llewellyn, Jim Southey and Steve Thompson, HITLER BECOMES CHANCELLOR, alpha history, 2018

In both crashes, the authorities suspect that faulty sensor data triggered the anti-stall system, revealing a single point of failure on the plane. Pilots weren’t informed about the system until after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, and even then, Boeing didn’t fully explain or understand the risks. The government outsourced much of the certification to Boeing employees, creating a cozy relationship between the company and its regulator. ...
The spokesman said F.A.A. employees were following agency rules when they didn’t review the change. “The change to MCAS didn’t trigger an additional safety assessment because it did not affect the most critical phase of flight, considered to be higher cruise speeds,” an agency spokesman said. ...
Speed was a defining characteristic for the F.A.A. The agency’s rules require an additional review only if the changes affect how the plane operates in riskier phases of flight: at high speeds and altitudes. Because the changes to the anti-stall system affected how it operated at lower speeds and altitudes, F.A.A. employees didn’t need to take a closer look at them. ...
The missed risks, by the F.A.A. and Boeing, flowed to other decisions. A deep explanation of the system wasn’t included in the plane manual. The F.A.A. didn’t require training on it. Even Boeing test pilots weren’t fully briefed on MCAS.
- Jack Nicas, David Gelles and James Glanz, Changes to Flight Software on 737 Max Escaped F.A.A. Scrutiny, NYT, April 11, 2019

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