Congratulations, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. This week there was so much disgracefulness that ― for once ― you’re out of the countdown. (#11, according to our data.)
President Trump, though, stick around. You’re definitely high in the ratings.
Since mid-2017, Republic Report’s “Trump Terrible 10” has ranked the week’s 10 most disgraceful figures in the Trump administration.
Republic Report, which focuses on how money corrupts democracy, has met its abusive dream mate with the kleptocratic administration of President Donald J. Trump. Trump and his lieutenants personify how money and greed, mixed with disrespect for constitutional values, know-nothing ignorance, serious bigotry, and an endless capacity for lying, can really, really corrupt democracy.
Permanent spoiler alert: We can’t imagine anyone other than Donald Trump ever occupying the top spot in the rankings. But we won’t get tired of him winning. Believe me.
10. Newt Gingrich, Trump sycophant and husband of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. Last week’s ranking: ―
Motivated to continue his sustained suck-up to Trump not only because his wife was made ambassador to the Vatican but also because he’s paid by the for-profit college industry to lobby the administration, Gingrich offered this disgraceful defense of our leader: “He’s the president of the United States. Period. Is he an unusual president? Sure. But so was Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”
No wonder Freddie Mac hired Gingrich as a “historian.”
9. John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff. Last week’s ranking: ―
As a Gold Star parent and decorated senior military officer, John Kelly deserves our gratitude and respect ― but not unquestioned deference to any attack he wants, regardless of the facts. In service of defending the indefensible Donald Trump, Kelly came to the White House briefing room Thursday and furiously attacked Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), for listening to the call between Trump and the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, a call placed the day after Trump was asked by a reporter why he hadn’t commented on the October 4 deaths of four Army Green Berets in Niger. Kelly also claimed the congresswoman glorified herself, instead of law enforcement agents, in remarks at the 2015 dedication of an FBI field office in Florida. He thus termed Wilson “an empty barrel.”
But Gen. Kelly didn’t seem to know the circumstances of why Rep. Wilson was on the phone: She was a family friend, on speaker in the car with family members, on the way to Miami’s airport to retrieve Sgt. Johnson’s body. And he failed to respect that a grieving civilian Gold Star widow, not herself a member of the armed services, might want to decide herself who she wants listening or what she shares with the public. Also, if it was so offensive to Kelly and Trump that Wilson was listening to the conversation, which Trump has called “a very personal call,” then why was it okay for Kelly to listen to the same call?
In addition, Kelly completely misrepresented Wilson’s remarks at the FBI building event.
Nor did Kelly, for all his indignation, acknowledge that it was his boss, Trump, who had started the politicized discussion of Gold Star families by stating, falsely, that President Obama didn’t generally call Gold Star families.
Finally, there was Kelly’s lament: “When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country,. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life, is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer.”
If Kelly in that portion of his remarks was turning his anger on Donald Trump ― whose record of abusing women is well-documented, who during the campaign attacked the Gold Star Khan family and attacked the Vietnam prisoner of war Senator John McCain (“I like people who weren’t captured, OK?”) ― Kelly forgot to explain that.
Was Kelly instead blaming Gold Star father Kizr Khan for using a public platform to speak out against injustices? Isn’t that what Kelly himself was purporting to do in the press room?
8. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary. Last week’s ranking: 10
Confronted at the Friday press briefing with the fact that the tape of Rep. Wilson’s remarks at the FBI building ceremony did not bear out General Kelly’s indignant account, Sanders said that the debate should have ended as soon as Kelly spoke. She explained, “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine General, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.”
Ma’am, we’re not in a dictatorship ― at least not yet. The way we resist a descent into dictatorship is to demand honesty and accountability from government, and to call out inaccurate or unfair statements, no matter who makes them. Sanders has no idea what our country stands for.
7. Marc Kasowitz, personal lawyer to the President. Last week’s ranking: ―
Marc Kasowitz has for decades represented Trump, on matters ranging from libel lawsuits, to threats to file libel lawsuits, to restructuring Trump debt, to trying to seal the records of Trump’s 1990 divorce from first First Lady Ivana. A recent investigation disclosed that Kasowitz sandwiched a 2012 meeting with the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., seeking to end a criminal probe of Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, between large campaign donations from Kasowitz to Vance. Vance dropped the case.
Kasowitz’s clumsy mismanagement of Trump’s Russiagate defense got him sidelined in favor of supposedly more refined DC lawyers. But he still has plenty of business. His firm is now making money filing oppressive lawsuits against Greenpeace and other organizations for campaigning against corporate environmental dangers. This week a judge dismissed, for now, a federal racketeering and libel suit that the Kasowitz firm brought on behalf of logging company Resolute Forest Products. But Resolute may try to refile, and meanwhile another lawsuit that Kasowitz’s firm has filed against Greenpeace, for Energy Transfer Partners ― driver of the Dakota Access Pipeline ― remains active. (Disclosure: I used to represent and advise Greenpeace in similar types of cases, and I like them a lot.)
Meanwhile, Politico reported this week that Trump took the unusual, and troubling, step, of personally interviewing a candidate each of two US attorney jobs, those in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The candidate for the Brooklyn slot is Ed McNally, of Kasowitz’s firm.
6. Mike Pompeo, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Last week’s ranking: ―
Koch-connected Kansas congressman turned Trump spymaster Pompeo told an event on Thursday that the “intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.” The CIA had to quickly correct Pompeo, because the intelligence community report in January stated, instead, that U.S. intelligence agencies “did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.”
But no doubt Pompeo’s gross misstatement pleased his patron, President Trump, who’s kind of obsessed with letting Russia off the hook.
5. Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury. Last week’s ranking: ―
When he’s not working to nickel and dime taxpayers over his air travel, wealthy Wall Streeter Mnuchin is always focused on cutting his own taxes through the Trump tax “reform” package. This week Mnuchin made an assertion / threat that was both dubious and grossly irresponsible for a Treasury Secretary: that failure to enact the Trump tax package would send the stock market into a dive.
4 . Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), former nominee for director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Jamie Gorelick, ethics lawyer for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Last week’s ranking: ―
Marino, as a congressman, and Gorelick, as a revolving door lawyer/lobbyist, each aided the pharmaceutical industry in weakening the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration to control the national opioid epidemic. Marino’s nomination to be White House drug czar was scuttled after a Washington Post / “60 Minutes” investigation exposed the whole mess, while Gorelick, whose ethics law clients Jared and Ivanka have posted an abysmal record on ethics matters, remains in the Trump orbit.
3. Ivanka Trump, Assistant to the President. Last week’s ranking: ―
This week the New Yorker reported that last November 11, Ivanka hijacked a Chris Christie-chaired Trump transition meeting by inviting in retired General Michael Flynn, reportedly gushing over Flynn’s “amazing loyalty to my father,” and asking him, “General, what job do you want?” Christie was promptly fired as head of the transition, and the reckless, bigoted Flynn was named national security advisor. Flynn served less than a month in the job before resigning in disgrace amid mounting criminal investigations over his undisclosed representations of foreign entities and secret discussions with Russian officials.
Ivanka’s influence on her father’s administration is so good and amazing.
2. Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Last week’s ranking: 7
A new study concludes that pollution kills nine million people around the world every single year. The United States could be working on these problems, and making lives better. Instead Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt have handed over U.S. policy to polluting industries. This week, Pruitt took yet another step in this disgraceful direction, ending a practice that gave environmental groups more leverage to hold the EPA accountable.
1. Donald J. Trump, President of the United States. Last week’s ranking: duh
Among the random acts of disgracefulness committed by Donald Trump this week: giving himself a 10 out of 10 grade on Puerto Rico hurricane relief, when most of the island still lacks power and water; declaring “I’m not gonna to blame myself ― I’ll be honest” about the total lack of legislative action on his agenda; and engaging in insanely rapid, incoherent flip-flops regarding an urgent bipartisan Senate fix that would keep providing millions of Americans with health care. Meanwhile, Trump’s kleptocratic emoluments keep accumulating like bars of gold, even as Justice Department lawyers argue that no one has the right to complain.
But let’s get to one of the most disgraceful chapters in the Trump presidency.
We can start by giving Donald Trump the benefit of this doubt: Let’s assume that on Tuesday, in a phone call, he was only trying to console Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson. Set aside, for the sake of argument, the possibility that Trump was annoyed that he had to contact the soldiers’ survivors after being called out Monday while taking press questions. Set aside, for a moment, the fact that Trump has repeatedly demonstrated disrespect for people of color, and suggested that they should be grateful to live in America at all.
Whether or not any such annoyance and contempt crept into Trump’s voice, the reality is that Ms. Johnson was left distraught, in tears; she apparently felt Trump’s words ― along the lines of “he knew what he signed up for... but when it happens, it hurts anyway” ― and his failure to mention her husband’s name were the opposite of consoling and comforting; they were disturbing, upsetting. Rep. Wilson was outraged by what she heard. She said the family members were “astonished... It was almost like saying, ‘You signed up to do this, and if you didn’t want to die, shouldn’t have signed up.’ ”
But instead of expressing regret at his misstep and trying to make things right, Trump advanced a massive, disgraceful attack, one that included many hallmarks of Trump disgracefulness in one big mess.
A. Attack President Obama
Asked Monday why he hadn’t publicly commented on the four slain soldiers, Trump said that he had over the weekend written letters to all the families, and suggested that as president he had called every Gold Star family. As to calling the families of those killed in Niger, Trump said, “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I’m going to be calling them. I have — as you know, since I’ve been President, I have.”
But Trump could not resist adding a disparagement of the man whose 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner ribbing of Trump ― in the aftermath of Trump’s disgraceful “birther” campaign ― are his main revenge obsession, and the basis of his presidency. “If you look at President Obama and other Presidents,” Trump said, “most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls.” Faced with a follow-up question on the topic, Trump waffled just a bit:
Q: Earlier, you said that President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?
TRUMP: I don’t know if he did. No, no, no, I was told that he didn’t often. And a lot of Presidents don’t; they write letters.... I do a combination of both. Sometimes ― it’s a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both. President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do ― all I can do is ask my generals.
As Trump efforts to blame and impugn Obama go, this one ended up relatively mild and hedged. Stiil, what Trump said was blatantly false.
B. Lie about a conversation and call the person telling the truth a liar
James Comey, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Bob Corker ― Trump is endlessly in a swearing match with someone about what occurred in a prior conversation. In this case, Trump claimed on Twitter that Rep. Wilson had “totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier.” He told reporters at the White House, “I didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all. She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said.”
We’ve seen enough of these episodes that rational people know who the liar is. In this case, there’s some pretty strong evidence to back up the idea that Trump is lying. In General Kelly’s appearance in the press room Thursday, he recounted how, when his son was killed in Iraq, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joe Dunford told him, “he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war. When he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends.’” Kelly explained that he had told that story to President Trump, and that when Trump spoke with Ms. Johnson, that’s what the president “tried to say.”
OK, but that suggests Rep. Wilson is telling the truth, and Trump is the one who’s lying.
Yet after Kelly recounted that story in the press room, Trump tweeted again that Wilson “gave a total lie on content!”
I think Rep. Wilson and Gen. Kelly are telling the truth, and Donald Trump is lying.
C. Suggest there’s a secret tape
Not content to lie about what occurred, Trump pulled out his standard bluff ― there’s a tape! Or there might be a tape! Or there could be a tape, you better hope there’s not, I don’t know. I’ll tell you in two weeks.
D. Love our veterans and Gold Star families - unless they cross you...
... in which case Trump, who avoided military service in the Vietnam era through student deferments and bone spurs, attacks them viciously. See John McCain, and Kizr and Ghazala Khan.
E. Attack people of color
F. Promise money ― and then fail to pay
As Trump ratcheted up the dispute, reporters dug into Trump’s previous calls with Gold Star families and discovered that in June the president had told one military father, Chris Baldridge, “I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000.” But the check never came.
As y’all know, investigative reporting has exposed the numerous times Trump failed to pay contractors, workers, and others who performed work for him, and how he often used the Donald J. Trump Foundation as a way to spend other people’s money on himself, rather than contributing to others.
After the Washington Post asked about the $25,000 this week, Trump sent the grieving father a check, the White House claims. Folks should follow up on that, and also see if the check came from Donald J. Trump or instead from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
G. Disgracefully hide behind someone else to clean up the mess
See number 9, above.
Trump is again number one — the most disgraceful figure in the Trump administration. Trump is not merely a disgrace; he’s a total and complete disgrace.
This article also appears on Republic Report.