Quick Takes: A White House Full of Deplorables

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Honestly…the only word for this is “deplorable.”

The White House was under siege.

Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught charging taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extramarital affair with the president. And the special counsel’s Russia investigation was intensifying. The tumult was so intense that there was fervent speculation that President Trump might even fire his chief of staff.

But a gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday, which left 17 dead, seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to refocus on handling a rare crisis not of their own making…

“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

By way of contrast, I have heard several people from the Obama administration, including the president himself, say that their worst day in the White House was December 14, 2012—the day of the Sandy Hook shooting.

* This is not good news for Paul Manafort and takes things one step closer to Trump.

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days — and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort, the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager Richard Gates, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.

* With the release of Mueller’s latest indictments, Trump finally had to admit that Russian interference in the 2016 election was not a hoax. Because that increases the threat he now faces, it should come as no surprise that he fell back on “lie, distract and blame.”

It was a challenge to fit my response into 280 characters, but I did it.

* Here’s a good way to frame things:

* Evan Osnos addresses one of the questions about all of this that a lot of people are trying to avoid.

The power of news illiteracy. At the heart of the Russian fraud is an essential, embarrassing insight into American life: large numbers of Americans are ill-equipped to assess the credibility of the things they read. The willingness to believe purported news stories, often riddled with typos or coming from unfamiliar outlets, is a liability of today’s fragmented media and polarized politics. Even the trolls themselves were surprised at what Americans would believe. According to the indictment, in September, 2017, once U.S. authorities had begun to crack down on the fraud, one of the defendants, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, e-mailed a family member, saying, “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.” She went on, “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

* On Friday, I posted this tweet to demonstrate that some Russians knew Trump planned to run for president as early as January 2014.

Just before Trump was inaugurated, Anna Nemtsova introduced us to Alferova Yulya.

The revolving door of the Ritz-Carlton hotel swished open and Yulia Alferova entered the luxurious lobby, used for important meetings both by the Russian elite and foreign guests. And there he was, Donald Trump, walking toward her in the morning light, the orange-haired American billionaire whose books she had read. She recalls “a lump of a man, powerful, huge, a real boss.”

In 2013, Trump’s longtime friends and interlocutors on business matters in Russia, the billionaire Aras Agalarov and his son Emin, the president and vice president of the Crocus Group real-estate company, asked the then-26-year-old Alferova, a quick-thinking Moscow entrepreneur, to help organize Trump’s Miss Universe contest.

* The resistance is female.

That started long before the #MeToo movement exploded on the scene. I think Neera Tanden nailed exactly what happened.

Anyone who doubts that simply needs to go back and listen to Michelle Obama’s speech in New Hampshire and understand why it resonated so powerfully.

* Finally, happy President’s Day, Donald.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.