Sunday, December 31, 2017

WaPo: How the Trump Era is Changing the Federal Bureaucracy

From 45 years of management experience, when layoffs are in the plan, employees always know ahead of time that they are coming. No matter the efforts to keep it secret it never is.

But that’s a good thing. It’s better for employees to brace for what’s coming than for it to be a big surprise.

In the case of rumored federal government layoffs, it is no secret: Donald Trump has promised to reduce the size of the federal government, saying he would “cut so much your head will spin.” That in light of the Republican Party’s longtime dream of a smaller government, you can count on federal workforce cuts.

In August 2017, federal agency managers said privately that they are fairly certain layoffs are coming. They said that they “will need to institute reductions in force as they aim to satisfy an executive order from President Trump and ensuing guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, said Leslie Pollack, deputy associate director of OPM’s HR Strategy and Evaluation Solutions, on WJLA’s Government Matters program. Those documents required executive branch agencies to reorganize themselves and, in the process, cut the size of their workforces. Pollack’s office, which provides human resources consulting to federal agencies, has assisted officials across government looking at closing down or realigning functions.

In September, some agencies said reform plans won’t focus on job cuts, and that layoffs unlikely. Several federal agency managers said they are not focusing on cutting their workforce and vowed to work with any employee whose jobs are consolidated to find them new positions within their organizations.

By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January -- with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post.

So, federal government workforce reductions will take place. That will bring big changes to the inner and outer workings of the federal government. For some, it means a cultural shift: Since an entity’s culture is made up of all its employees and team members’ beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, a shift in culture will require a shift in individual belief, thought, and behaviors. It means increased accountability: “For those inside the bureaucracy, a new Trump-era focus on accountability has meant working under greater oversight -- and in some cases, fear of reprisals.”
Heres the story:

By Lisa Rein, Andrew Ba Tran

Saturday, December 30, 2017

CNBC: Trump Threatens China, Says Russia Inquiry Makes America 'Look Very Bad'

In an impromptu interview with The New York Times on Thursday, Donald Trump threatened China over North Korea’s nuclear missile threat against the United States.

And on Thursday, Trump tweeted that there will "never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem" if Beijing continues to aid Pyongyang.

Trump also said the ongoing Russia investigation makes America "look very bad. and it puts the country in a very bad position. So the sooner it's worked out, the better it is for the country."

Trump suggested Thursday that he may act on his threats against China following reports of the country providing oil to North Korea.

"If they don't help us with North Korea, then I can do what I've always said I want to do."

In response, Dan Rather writes on his Facebook Page:

We have been bombarded with evidence - evidence that we are in dangerous and unchartered waters, evidence that the President of the United States lies with abandon, evidence that there is much more to the Russia attack on our democracy than was initially believable, evidence that there is an authoritative streak amongst our current national leadership, evidence that our allies are dismayed and our adversaries are emboldened.

There have been so many headlines, so many tweets and quotes, so much cacophony that it is easy to feel what more can there be that surprises or dismays us. How much lower can President Trump take the tenor of our national discourse or America's standing in the world?

All of this is a lead up to an article that boggles the mind out of the New York Times. Here is President Trump unscripted and away from sycophantic aides who explain away his ignorance, cruelty, and anti-democratic values. This is President Trump unchecked and it is a sobering, even frightening sight to behold.

Imagine if these quotes were printed without our current context. Does this sound like a president? I think we know how history will judge that answer. The question is what lies in the gap of time between now and then. How much damage can be done?

Every Republican elected official or business leader who seeks to normalize this Administration must be forced to answer, is this normal? Is this sane? Is this democratic? Frankly, is this American?

Here’s the story from CNBC:


By Nyshka Chandran

Vox: The president of the United States is not well

Incoherent, authoritarian, uninformed:
Trump’s New York Times interview is a scary read

The presidency of Donald Trump without guidance from his Administration is downright frightening. But even with his handlers, it can be frightening. And it’s really scary how interlocutors reinforce his lies, put the spin on what he says, or try to explain what Trump means in what he says.

Vox’s Ezra Klein highlights Trump’s impromptu interview with The New York Times on Thursday.

The interview “begins with a string of falsehoods that make it difficult to tell whether the leader of the free world is lying or delusional.

In Klein’s opinion “The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore.

Whatever the cause, it is plainly obvious from Trump’s words that this is not a man fit to be president, that he is not well or capable in some fundamental way. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, and so many prefer not to say it, but Trump does not occupy a job where such deficiencies can be safely ignored.

Here’s Klein’s story:

By Ezra Klein

Atlantic -- How to Build an Autocracy (Video)

 The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.

By David Frum
Writing on the neo-authoritarianism of Donald Trump, The Atlantic’s senior editor David Frum declares, “We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States in decades.Frum answers the question: What can people do when Congress refuses to check the president, civil unrest fuels his agenda, and he uses Twitter to stifle dissent?

In his story, Frum explains why and how Trump, an indifferent Congress and public, will lead to an autocratic government in the United States.

In part, Frum wrote, “The lurid mass movements of the 20th century--communist, fascist, and other--have bequeathed to our imaginations an outdated image of what 21st-century authoritarianism might look like.

Whatever else happens, Americans are not going to assemble in parade-ground formations, any more than they will crank a gramophone or dance the turkey trot. In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead.

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

Public Indifference Is Trump's Asset on the Path to Autocracy:

Friday, December 29, 2017

EcoWatch --What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?

EchoWatch reported that last month world scientists issued a warning of impending environmental collapse.

But for Donald Trump, who once dismissed global warming as a “hoax” created by the Chinese to destroy American jobs, now says that the United States “Perhaps could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against.

Speaking from balmy Florida on Thursday, Trump conflated weather with climate change and used the opportunity to again criticize the Paris agreement. I guess Trump believes that global warming is not a problem after all.

The warning came from more than 15,000 scientists who said, because of over-consumption of world resources we are facing widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss. They warned that time is running out: Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.'

Along with their warning, the scientists list a dozen or so examples of the kind of actions that could turn humanity's trajectory around. These include indisputably necessary strategies such as halting the conversion of native habitats into farmland; restoring and rewilding ecologies; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; and promoting dietary shifts toward plant-based foods. With the future of humanity at stake, why aren't we already doing these things? What will it really take for our civilization to change course and save itself from destruction?

Yes. Why aren’t we doing these things? The answer is Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Trump and Republican ignorance are the major roadblocks to creating any change that will make lives now or in the future better. They didn’t with health care or taxes, and we can’t expect any new ways of thinking when it comes to global warming.

Here’s Echo Watch’s Jeremy Lent’s report:

By Jeremy Lent

Guardian -- Evangelical Christians 'uncritical' in support for Trump, UK bishop says

Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, accuses some religious leaders of ‘colluding with a system that marginalizes the poor’

It’s puzzling why so many purported Christians support Donald Trump. A man who encourages violence; a man who is a liar, who frequently demonstrates that he is a bully, a racist, a xenophobic, a misogynist; a man who frequently demonstrates his hatefulness towards others. It seems to me that Trump and his supporters have created a place where Jesus Christ -- who Christians revere and is central to their beliefs, the Christians’ man who is the antithesis of Donald Trump -- would not feel welcome.

For Christians who celebrate Christmas in the era of Donald J. Trump, it’s proving to be a challenge: How can good times be celebrated at a time when the news is so relentlessly bad; how can we “celebrate the light at a time of deepening darkness?

A senior Church of England bishop has lambasted conservative evangelical Christians in the US for their uncritical support of Donald Trump, urging them to reflect on how their endorsement of the president relates to their faith.

Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, said self-styled evangelicals risked bringing the word evangelical into disrepute, and added there was no justification for Christians contradicting God’s teaching to protect the poor and the weak.

Bayes told the Guardian: “Some of the things that have been said by religious leaders seem to collude with a system that marginalizes the poor, a system which builds walls instead of bridges, a system which says people on the margins of society should be excluded, a system which says we’re not welcoming people any more into our country.

If people want to support right-wing populism … how are they going to relate that to their Christian faith?

“Whenever people say those kinds of things, they need to be able to justify that they’re saying those things as Christians, and I do not believe it’s justifiable.”

By Harriet Sherwood

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Hill -- Trump Admin Rolling Back Use of Fines Against Nursing Homes

Donald Trump and the Republican Party fear government overreach when it comes to the safety and well-being of the Americans who live on Main Street. The same overreach, as they so clearly demonstrated with their tax reform legislation, is conveniently ignored when it comes to Wall Street.

Donald Trump is even more motivated by his ability to end all that is Obama’s.

Under the ruse of calling deregulation cost-saving measures, Trump has been rolling back Obama-era nursing home regulations with new guidelines. Under President Obama, regulations were built on, and federal inspectors focused on, inspecting facilities for wrongdoing and mistreatment, such as inadequate infection control policies and procedures, and subsequently applying fines for violations.

The American Health Care Association, the lead trade group of the industry, has complained that Obama-era policies "focused excessively on catching wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve."

Dr. Kate Goodrich, director of clinical standards and quality at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, argued that regulations in the past have interfered with nursing homes' ability to give people the best service.

“Rather than spending quality time with their patients, the providers are spending time complying with regulations that get in the way of caring for their patients and doesn’t increase the quality of care they provide.


Regulations are all about “helping nursing homes improve,” Giving “people the best service,” and “increasing the quality of care they provide.” Industries without regulatory oversight will do anything to increase their bottom line, and those reduced or eliminated regulatory cost-saving measures do just that.

Here’s the story:

By Rebecca Savransky

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Todd Gitlin: Gibberish Is the White House’s New Normal

Todd Glitin for Bill writes about the unintelligible speech we hear day in and day out from the man who now occupies the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC.

We hear from his press secretary and other interlocutors who try to defend and decipher his “Gibberish” who only offer more meaningful nonsense that leaves us more befuddled than before.

Glitin points out with previous presidents ‘English seemed their native language.” And especially President Obama who “valued precision, in no small part because he knew he lived in a world where every last presidential word was a speech act, a declaration with consequence, so that the very statement that the sky was blue, say, would be scoured for evidence that the president was declaring a policy on the nature of nature.

Gitlin concludes his piece by writing,“[Trump’s] con game requires the bending of millions of knees. Americans are invited to willingly suspend disbelief, play dumb and collude in his cynicism. We agree not to notice the nonstop gibberish that spreads from the Oval Office outward. We agree to brag about our democracy when the president of the United States is responsible neither to logic, nor to evidence, nor to the American people, nor to the English language. We are expected to live in an alternative universe which is not only post-truth but altogether post-language and post-meaning. Any journalist, any talking head, any pundit, any commentator, any politician who pretends that Donald Trump makes sense has volunteered to go to work in the tailor shop where his invisible clothes are weaved.

Here’s the story:

Donald Trump- Caricature | by DonkeyHotey

By Todd Gitlin

Robert Reich: A Year With Trump

At the White House celebrating the passing of the Republican tax reform legislation into law, Senator Orrin Hatch said that Donald Trump is "living up to everything I thought you would."

"I came from very humble roots. And I have to say, that this is one of the great privileges of my life to stand here on the White House lawn with the President of the United States, who I love and appreciate so much, and with these wonderful colleagues and Cabinet members who stand behind us."

Hatch said we could be witnessing the greatest presidency "ever."

But Berkeley’s Professor Robert Reich has a very different view.

Reich concludes in his blog piece, “A Year With Trump”: “America has had its share of good and bad presidents, but Donald Trump falls far below anything this nation has ever before experienced. In less than a year, he has degraded the core institutions and values of our democracy.

We have never before had a president whose character was so contrary to the ideals of the republic. That Senator Orrin Hatch and other Republicans don’t seem to recognize this is itself frightening.

Here’s Robert Reich: 

The Independent

By Robert Reich

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

LA Times -- Trump claims he's boosting U.S. influence, but many foreign leaders see America in retreat

As Trump’s presidency continues to deteriorate, nothing is going to change the minds of his supporters. But the rest of America and many world leaders are outraged and perplexed over the direction the United States is taking.

As Neal Garber wrote in Farewell, America, “America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity -- all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.

In receiving the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal on Oct. 16, 2017, John McCain said the United States must maintain its position as a leader of the free world.

He said, "To refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to."

But we are in a world where America’s leadership and ideals are absent. The LA Times reports, “China has now assumed the mantle of fighting climate change, a global crusade that the United States once led. Russia has taken over Syrian peace talks, also once the purview of the American administration, whose officials Moscow recently deigned to invite to negotiations only as observers.

France and Germany are often now the countries that fellow members of NATO look to, after President Trump wavered on how supportive his administration would be toward the North Atlantic alliance.

And in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S., once the only mediator all sides would accept, has found itself isolated after Trump’s decision to declare that the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In his wide-ranging speech on national security last week, Trump highlighted what he called the broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.

But one year into his presidency, many international leaders, diplomats and foreign policy experts argue that he has reduced U.S. influence or altered it in ways that are less constructive. On a range of policy issues, Trump has taken positions that disqualified the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant.”

Here’s the story:

By Tracy Wilkinson, Alexandra Zavis, Shashank Bengali

From Education to Social Programs, Tis the Season to Punish the Poor

The disdain for dependency that Charles Dickens exposed 180 years ago is driving social policy in the United States today.
Disdaining dependency.  That was the attitude Dickens exposed 180 years ago.

That same attitude is driving social policy in the United States today. Only now that the tax overhaul is [a done deal] have we begun to read about why our Republican House and Senate and President seem so little worried about tax cuts that, simple arithmetic tells us, we cannot afford. All month we have been reading about the size of the tax cuts and the plutocrats who will benefit, but there has been very little honest reckoning about what will be the most serious human consequences.

Now, however, are we learning the reason. The real goal is eliminating dependency by punishing the poor for being poor.

In the United States, and globally, income inequality and poverty -- its result -- is on the rise.

Because of capitalism’s essential nature, which is to serve the self-interest of capitalist, wealth in the United States continues to grow while income inequality, poverty and the number of homeless families increased. Accordingly, more and more of those who once considered themselves middle-class are now joining the ranks of the poor.

The fact is the United States hates its poor. They “disdain dependency.” Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s tax reform legislation makes that abundantly clear.

It doesn’t speak highly of the world’s richest country. The United States brags about being a human rights leader, but evidence is piling up that that’s not true.

The Trumpublicans will do anything in their power to retain a certain level of poverty. That’s not going to change until we change the political makeup of Congress.

By Jan Resseger

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Independent -- Donald Trump Shows 'Qualities Usually Found in Narcissistic, Vengeful Autocrats', says Former CIA Director

 President 'expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone', says John Brennan

It’s unbelievable that a President of the United States could ever be a Donald Trump. Prior to Trump’s presidency, if anyone ever suggested to me the notion that such a person could become president, I would scoff at them and say ‘that’s ridiculous.’

Yet here we are. The electoral process, with little less than a majority of Americans voting for this despicable man, installed an autocrat to be the President of the United States. And even worse, a Republican Party, who hold the majority position in Congress, support his autocratic ways.

The most recent example of Trump’s autocratic way is his attempt at bullying the United Nations General Assembly into accepting his declaration that the city of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

But despite Trump’s threat to cut U.S. financial aid from those nations who did not support his position, the Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution that declared his message 'null and void.'

“It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted, “Trump Admin threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in UN to oppose US position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows @realDonaldTrump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone—qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats.

Richard Gowan, a United Nations expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, told The Independent the vote is still a “win for Trump in a perverse way”: “It fits with his tough guy, anti-globalist image. If he had backed down in the face of U.N. pressure he would have looked hollow to his domestic supporters.”

Here’s the story:

By Chris Baynes

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Hill -- ICE Approves Plan to Separate Families at Border

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) wants to implement a plan that needlessly separates children from their parents, putting children’s safety and well-being at risk. Donald Trump of course approves.

On March 6, then Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly said he was considering separating children from their parents apprehended at the Southern border of the United States to discourage families from illegally entering the United States.

The Hill reports that“Under the policy being considered, families could be separated, with parents being kept in detention facilities as they await deportation while children would be kept under protective custody at shelters for juveniles or with an approved sponsor.

At this point, the only hurdle is that the plan needs to be approved by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, which she has not done. Nielsen, at her confirmation hearing, “When Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) sought her views on Trump’s plans for a wall along the Mexican border, Nielsen echoed Kelly’s assessment, telling the panel that ‘there is no need for a wall from sea to shining sea.’” So, to use Trump’s favorite response: “We’ll see.”

Under current law, children who enter the United States without a parent and encounter [Customs and Border Patrol] agents must be transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within 72 hours of their apprehension. ORR then works to reunify these children with a parent or family member or place them in short- or long-term foster care -- to be clear, these placements are not the same as foster care homes licensed and monitored through state child welfare agencies.

“In Fiscal Year 2016, DHS referred 59,170 unaccompanied children to ORR,” according to the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

Trump stirred up anti-immigrant hatred during his campaign and now with the support of the Republican Party and his followers is in a position to implement his cruel and unjust agenda. Even without the implementation of ICE’s new plan, Trump’s ICE has been taking children from their families and deporting them. He still plans to undo the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ( DACA). The United States should not force families to live in the shadows. Hate is not an American value.

Here’s the story:

By Josh Delk

USA Today -- TV Ad Thanks Trump for Letting Us Say 'Merry Christmas' Again (Video)

By William Cummings
This man and the Republican Party -- other than, perhaps, Senator Joseph McCarthy -- are likely the most deceitful and disgusting bunch of politicians ever to serve our country.

A new $1 million Christmas pro-Trump ad, scheduled to run on Christmas Day, features a little girl thanking Donald Trump for letting us say Merry Christmas again!

The “America First Policies’ ad is called “Thank You, President Trump.”

During a White House celebration of the Republican tax bill on Wednesday, Trump remarked that “we can say ‘Merry Christmas’ again. People are saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, and we like the sound.”

But there was no prohibition against saying "Merry Christmas" when America had a black president.

The notion that saying “Merry Christmas” was prohibited under President Obama is false. It’s one of Trump’s numerous lies. “Nonetheless, Trump seems to have convinced himself [and has convinced his supporters] that nobody said it during the Obama years -- a period of time during which Trump rose to political prominence thanks to the racist conspiracy theory he pushed about Obama not actually being an American citizen.Salon

New Yorker -- The Most Frightening Aspect of Trump’s Tax Triumph

The lies told by powerful men—and the thanks heaped on the most powerful man of all—are the language of a dictatorship.

Trump’s presidency from the very beginning has been built on one lie atop another. Lies about what various bills will do, lies about the Affordable Care Act more commonly known as Obamacare, lies about what he will do to fix problems, and lies about what he is trying to achieve.

And it’s not just the lies, it’s his duplicitousness and self-interest too.

Trump even lied about the Republican tax legislation he signed into law Friday morning before leaving for his Christmas break in Florida. His declaration that the bill was “an incredible Christmas gift” for the American people is a blatant, barefaced lie.

The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen, in part, writes:

“Donald Trump has scored a legislative victory with staggering costs. The price of the tax bill has to be measured not only in the loss American society will face in the increase in inequality, in the impact on public health, and the growth of the deficit, but also in the damage to political culture inflicted by the spectacle of one powerful man after another telling lies of various sorts.

All along there has been Trump claiming that the bill was a “gift” to the middle class. That this assertion appears to have no basis in fact has not affected the President’s statements. The President’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, maintained that his department had run the numbers and had shown that the tax bill would pay for itself. It appears that he lied, not so much about the result of the Treasury’s study but about the existence of the study itself: the Times reported last month that the analysis had not been done.

The “Trumpian lie,” and “insincere pronouncement that is all empty ritual,“is not normally observed in countries with functioning democratic institutions, because hollow words are the very opposite of accountability. These kinds of speeches are usually given in dictatorships: their intended audience is not the public but the tyrant. This is what we observed in Washington on Wednesday, and it’s the scariest part of Trump’s big tax triumph.

Here’s the story:

By Masha Gessen

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Bloomberg -- UN Defies Trump's Threats by Passing Resolution on Jerusalem

Trump’s attempt at bullying the United Nations General Assembly into accepting his declaration that the city of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel did not go as planned.

Despite Trump’s threat to cut U.S. financial aid from those nations who did not support his position, the Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution that declared his message 'null and void.' 

The nonbinding UN resolution passed Thursday by a vote of 128-9, with 35 nations abstaining. Key U.S. allies backing the measure over Trump’s threats included the U.K., France, Italy, Japan and Germany. The U.S. was joined in opposition by countries including Guatemala, Nauru and Micronesia. Abstentions included Australia, Canada, and Argentina.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley responded, “The United States will remember this day when it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly.We will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they often do, to pay even more. This vote will be remembered.”

Trump said, “I liked the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations to all of those nations that take our money and then they vote against us in the Security Council, they vote against us potentially at the Assembly. They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let ’em vote against us.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale.”

Heres the story:

By Kambiz Foroohar

The Guardian -- Trump threatens to cut aid to countries over UN Jerusalem vote

By Peter Beaumont

Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has brought widespread international opposition, even among some of America’s closest allies.

On Monday, the UN General Assembly held a rare emergency session on the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Other than the United States, every member of the Security Council voted to condemn Trump’s action. On Wednesday, Trump threatened to cut financial aid to countries that voted against his decision.

His comments came after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning that she will be taking names of countries that vote for a general assembly resolution critical of the announcement which overturned decades of US foreign policy.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump amplified Haley’s threat.

“Let them vote against us,” Trump said.

“We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

Today, despite Trump’s threat, the UN General Assembly voted 128-9 to declare U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital 'null and void.'

Here’s Trump on the UN’s Jerusalem vote: 'we're watching your votes':

CNN -- Bob Corker's totally haywire interview with Wolf Blitzer

Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party are causing problems for most Americans and their actions will bring harmful consequences for the United States.

Their tax reform legislation overwhelmingly benefits wealthy individuals who don’t need to be enriched any more than they are now. It’s only “an incredible Christmas giftfor Republican donors, Trump and folks like him. Certainly not for the folks who live on Main Street, USA.

Robert Reich writes, “The new tax bill represents everything that’s wrong with Trump and his Republican enablers (and the oligarchs behind them) -- unbridled greed, utter disdain for the rest of America, and a cynical assumption they can get away with anything by repeatedly lying through their teeth.

We know what comes next. They’ll lie about how great their new tax law is. [We witnessed their celebratory mood immediately following the passing of their tax bill.] Then they’ll turn their attention to using the hole it blows in the federal budget to push for cuts Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, and what’s left of the Affordable Care Act. And the corporate lackeys in Trump's administration will continue to slash health, safety, labor, consumer, and environmental protections.

Gary Cohn, an investment banker now serving as Director of the National Economic Council and chief economic adviser
 to Trump, conceded in an interview that “the most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.” 

Republican Representative Chris Collins admitted “my donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”

And, Senator Lindsey Graham warned that if Republicans failed to pass the tax plan, “the financial contributions will stop.”

It’s incomprehensible how so many people have been duped into following Trump and his party down this dreadful path. And the hypocrisy and duplicity in the Republican-led Congress have reached incredible heights.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Republican Senator Bob Corker about his support of the tax bill, considering he strongly opposed it just a few days ago.

Here’s the exchange that followed:

By Chris Cillizza