By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 6, 2018 ~
Last evening the New York Times dropped a bombshell just in time to dominate cable news programming for the next six hours. A “senior official” currently working inside the Trump administration penned an anonymous OpEd which the Times posted on its website last evening and is running in its print edition today. The anonymous writer explains that President Donald Trump is unfit to govern and that there is a coup taking place in the Federal government by unelected men but Americans should be comforted because these are “unsung heroes” and they are the “adults in the room” — even though we can’t know their names.
To borrow a phrase from Bob Woodward’s new book on Trump’s reign in the White House, welcome to crazytown.
Parsing the phrasing in the OpEd, there is a clear pattern of right-wing ideology – the kind that comes from Charles Koch, CEO of the fossil fuels conglomerate, Koch Industries, and the sprawling network of tax-exempt front groups that are funded with Koch foundation money. There is this telling phrase in the OpEd: “…the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.” This is the jargon of the Koch-brand of the libertarian movement which tortuously attempts to equate freedom with the right to pollute the environment with fossil fuels without government interference.
Then there is this sentence in the OpEd: “We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.” The Koch manifesto is that gutting regulations makes America more “prosperous” thus its heavy funding of the front group Americans for Prosperity. This is how the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch describes Americans for Prosperity: “Americans for Prosperity is a right-wing political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, the owners of Koch Industries. AFP serves as the Kochs’ ‘grassroots’ operation, also known as astroturf. AFP spends millions on TV ads in election cycles.”
Embedded in the writer’s effort to sell the idea that “many” of the Trump administrations’ policies have “made America safer and more prosperous” is the fact that Koch money, operating through its front group, Freedom Partners, dictated in writing what it wanted the Trump administration to accomplish and got many of those demands met. Repeal the Paris Climate Accord – done. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy – done. Gutting federal regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency – much accomplished.
There is one other telling word in the OpEd: the word “republic” as used in this sentence: “But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.” A person operating separate and apart from the Koch network might have said the “health of our democracy” or the “health of our nation” but a libertarian would have chosen the word “republic.”
There’s another reason why we believe this is the handiwork of a Koch-connected “senior official.” Numbers are simply on our side. In November of last year, the watchdog group, Public Citizen, reported that 44 Trump administration officials have been plucked from the Koch network. As of April of this year, SourceWatch reports that 12 people who previously worked at Freedom Partners are working in the Trump administration. Until last month when he stepped down, that included Marc Short, who went from being President of Freedom Partners to Director of Legislative Affairs for Trump, pushing through many items on that list of written demands from Freedom Partners. (As of July, eight of the nine Board Members of Freedom Partners is a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair of Freedom Partners is Mark Holden, the General Counsel of Koch Industries: this at a taxpayer subsidized organization.)
Then there is the fact that Koch Industries’ long-time law firm, Jones Day, sent 12 of its lawyers to the Trump administration all on the same day – January 20, 2017, the day Trump was inaugurated. That includes White House Counsel Don McGahn (who will be leaving this Fall) and his Chief of Staff, Ann Donaldson. Both McGahn and Donaldson previously represented Freedom Partners.
As we previously reported, there was actually a baker’s dozen who moved to the Trump administration from Jones Day on Inauguration Day. Michael Roman was the 13th. Michael Roman’s main salary was coming from Freedom Partners, but his financial disclosure form indicated that he had also received compensation “exceeding $5,000” from Jones Day for “research consulting” prior to moving to the White House.
According to Ken Vogel, writing for Politico in 2015, Roman headed a CIA-lite intelligence operation at Freedom Partners. Vogel writes:
“The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular ‘intelligence briefing’ emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.”
It is now just 61 days until the midterm election. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week showed that “more than 6 in 10 Americans say Trump and the Republican Party are out of touch with most people in the country,” and that “registered voters say they favor the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate in their district by 52 percent to 38 percent.”
That poll had to set off fire alarms within the Koch network. How can they complete the dismantling of Federal regulations and Federal agencies if their hand-picked Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives and possibly even the Senate.
The plan launched by the OpEd appears to be to distance themselves from Trump’s “crazytown” and wrap themselves in the coffin-draped flag of the recently departed Republican Senator John McCain, eulogized for an entire week by U.S. media as an American hero.
The anonymous New York Times OpEd writer invokes McCain as follows: “We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.”