Keeping Up With the…Kushners, Bannon Hit Squad, Trump Transition Team

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 18, 2016 

Donald Trump

President-Elect Donald Trump

“Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” a reality tv show, has some stiff competition coming from network news as it reports on the daily churn of the Trump Transition Team, which is providing enough intrigue for a thrice daily soap opera.

At 6:37 a.m. on Wednesday, three NBC reporters announced that Donald Trump had “taken the unprecedented step of requesting his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, receive top-secret clearance to join him for his Presidential Daily Briefings.” By mid-morning Wednesday, the New York Times was denying the rumor. But by evening, ABC News was reporting that the “intelligence community” had confirmed the story to its reporters.

Kushner is married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. He is 35 years old, has no intelligence background, no current security clearances, and is the publisher of a New York City-based newspaper, The New York Observer. A newspaper publisher is not a likely post with which the government wants to share its Top Secrets, except perhaps on the occasions when it wants to leak fake Top Secrets – like Iraq stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. One week ago, Kushner’s Observer announced it will no longer have a print edition and will simply be known as and exist in digital form only.

But the real soap opera feel to the story was provided by Vanity Fair mid afternoon on Wednesday. It turns out that the recently deposed chair of the Trump Transition Team, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, was the former prosecutor who tried a criminal case against Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, for “18 counts of tax evasion, illegal campaign donations, and witness tampering more than a decade ago.” And there was also this nugget: Charles Kushner had “admitted that he had set up his brother-in-law with a prostitute and taped the exchange to exact revenge.” Kushner’s father was sentenced to two years in prison in 2005 and, according to Vanity Fair’s anonymous source, Kushner wants a President Trump to pardon his father in order to restore his reputation. Vanity Fair also hints that Kushner may have helped to overthrow Christie for revenge.

To impartial observers, when one member of a transition team has jailed the parent of another member, it doesn’t suggest smooth sailing. Why would Donald Trump have brought Chris Christie into such a combustible situation and why did he accept?

But there are other competing plots in the fast moving Trump Transition Team soap opera. A man named Steve Bannon, whom Trump has named his Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor in the White House, is the star/target of a hit squad sub plot.

On Monday, the New York Times headlined its own editorial: “Steve ‘Turn on the Hate’ Bannon in the White House.” Before taking over Trump’s campaign this summer, Bannon had been the Executive Chairman of the Breitbart News Network, parent of Breitbart News, which the Times defines as a haven of bigotry and harassers of minorities. Other media outlets piled on after the Times editorial as did a number of Jewish organizations who characterized Bannon as anti-Semitic. One of Bannon’s alleged sins was to have published an article with a headline calling Bill Kristol “a renegade Jew.” But then David Horowitz, the former left-winger now right-wing columnist, announced in an article for Breitbart that he had written that headline and article. Says Horowitz:  “the only alleged slander of the Jews that the NY Times could dig up in its list of Bannon’s faux sins, is a headline that I wrote, and am totally responsible for, and that Bannon had nothing to do with. This headline was written by me for an unsolicited article I sent to – that I didn’t even get paid for – calling Bill Kristol a ‘renegade Jew.’ ” Indeed, the byline of David Horowitz appears at the top of the article. David Horowitz is the Editor of Frontpage Magazine, a major backer of Israel.

Alan Dershowitz, Emeritus Law Professor at Harvard and a strong supporter of Israel, gave an interview to Breitbart on the matter, stating: “I haven’t seen any evidence of personal anti-Semitism on the part of Bannon. I think the (Breitbart) headline about a Conservative Republican being a renegade Jew was ill-advised. But it doesn’t suggest to me anti-Semitism. It suggests to me a degree of carelessness.”

According to The Intercept’s Robert Mackey, the Bannon matter is far more nuanced than would seem at first blush, with Breitbart News “originally conceived of by its founder, Andrew Breitbart, as a way to fight what he saw as ‘the anti-Israel bias of the mainstream media’ and left-wing Jewish groups that oppose Israel’s open-ended military occupation of Palestinian land.” But under Bannon, according to the Intercept article, the site began to attract a large following by posting anti-Semitic headlines and when those began to go viral it simply went with what was building its traffic base.

This morning, the Trump Transition Team decided it was time to change the subject and add a new plot and controversy. It announced that Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative from Alabama, has been nominated by Trump for U.S. Attorney General. Sessions past racist remarks cost him a Federal judgeship in 1986 after his nomination for the post by President Ronald Reagan. The Senate Judiciary Committee that voted down his nomination was Republican-controlled at the time.

In his 60 Minutes interview this past Sunday eve, Donald Trump said Americans should not be afraid of his presidency. The fact that he even had to say this is, alone, reason to fear. With race relations tanking in the U.S. and the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum, the Sessions nomination feels like an unnecessary provocation.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, reality tv is defined as “television programmes in which ordinary people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative.” If the Trump Transition Team is a taste of what’s ahead in the transmogrification of private citizen Donald Trump to President Trump, we’re all in for some very bizarre “entertainment.”


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