The Primary Goal of One #FakeBorderCrisis Speech?

Keeping You Away from Five Other Important Headlines

by Charles Ellison | Publisher’s Riff | @ellisonreport

However lame that story might be, however much filled with lies or deliberate misstatements it is, one thing we can say about the current president is that he knows how to tell a story.

And he also knows how to keep the larger audience away from other stories.

For certain, the president sucked up precious minutes of national anxiety, public speculation and airtime minutes on Tuesday in a gambit to regain or revive confidence from his political base. It’s unclear if it worked or if it was even designed to work towards that purpose, that’s another conversation after a few days of polling assessment and perhaps another week or more of a government shutdown. But what it did do was is effectively draw attention away from the sudden convergence of five key, potentially embarrassing headlines for the president. The timing and sloppy nature of a hastily arranged address, the first of its kind for this presidency, perhaps reveals more about what’s making him nervous that it does about what specific political goal he’s attained from it. He’s not looking to revive “the base” (which still lingers on as that persistent 35 percent of the electorate) as much as he’s looking to hide behind it. The fact that he didn’t invoke the “National Emergencies Act” may not mean he was struggling with the Constitutional ramifications of it or being cautious due to warnings from aides and Republican lawmakers.

It may mean he just bought himself more time to shake up the news cycle and keep it away, for as long as he can, from intense public spotlight on other news, particularly three major items showing the legal walls falling all around him.

Keep in mind major developments at the top of the week that missed larger public awareness and scrutiny:

Apparently, Paul Manafort was relaying Trump campaign data to Russian intelligence, according to court documents accidentally disclosed by Manafort lawyers (which means if Manaforts lawyers are acknowledging it, it’s true). To date, it’s the clearest and most inciminating evidence of “collusion” between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. That’s a major reveal the president just had to break up the news cycle over with his addressand it’s only a step away from the most basic question: Did the president know about it? Here’s more on that …

That Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officials in a now infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting? Yeah, so she was indicted on Monday. That’s the other big shoe that dropped, yet made little noise in the news cycle. Natalia Veselnitskaya found herself charged with attempting to foil federal investigators in an unrelated money-laundering case. But, now it’s not so unrelated because 1) the case reveals the very close ties she has to Russian intelligence and 2) federal prosecutors are sure to put pressure on her to confirm, once again: Did the president know about it?

The Mueller probe hit the Supreme Court for the first time — and got a crucial win (we just don’t know for what, exactly). Strangely enough, the high court just let special counsel Robert Mueller proceed with forcing a mysterious, unnamed foreign company to comply with a subpoena — this is the first time the Mueller probe has reached the high court. No one knows the details of this case, because the foreign company is only known as “Company A” from “Country A.” And we don’t know exactly why Mueller is going so strong after it. But, we do know it’s some kind of foreign financial institution he’s attempting to wrestle information from, and a lower court found that “Company A” was in contempt. The company appealed on grounds it was immune from prosecution via the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. That didn’t fly with the Supreme Court on appeal and they refused to intervene. Which is also interesting considering the Court’s very conservative and now increasingly Trump-nominated make-up.

So, those are the three damning headlines he kept you away from … for at least a long minute. Here are two others he, in conjunction with the larger Republican political apparatus, didn’t want the public to see or absorb or think too hard about:

This is the first week federal workers won’t get paid. Reality just sunk in this week that more than 800,000 federal workers won’t get paid by Friday. Over half of those, meanwhile, are still required to clock in. And it just set in that many farmers — a major Trump voting bloc —now have their checks stalled from the $12 billion bailout the Trump White House engineered in response to complaints over pain felt from a trade war with China the president instigated.

The voter suppression landscape just expanded: federal courts just officially breathed new life into Republican Party voter suppression efforts. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals just rejected an appeal from the Democratic National Committee to continue a 37-year old consent decree that forced the Republican National Committee not to engage in so-called “ballot security” initiatives which were really old school voter intimidation and suppression by any other name. In 1982, a federal court forced the Republican National Committee and the New Jersey state GOP not to repeat racially-charged voter intimidation efforts that they pursued during a gubernatorial race at the time. Heavy voter suppression occurred targeting Black voters, particularly in Newark and surrounding areas. With Trump’s re-election effort for 2020 just around the corner, this decision just helped further invigorate Republican voter suppression efforts already in motion.