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The Week in White House Drama: Haspel’s Confirmation and Cohen’s Bad Month

Rules are changing, secretaries are getting sued, and the US pulled out of a major deal.

The drama in the White House this week mainly revolved around the controversial nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, and the efforts to keep her from being confirmed, as well as the President’s decision to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Other controversial moments concern Michael Cohen and the Russia probe as well as another gutsy move by United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

The Big Drama

Well, after months of threats he finally did it – Trump decided to leave the Iran Nuclear Deal. Reports indicate that most of the Department of Defense, as well as Defense secretary Jim Mattis, were against this move, and had advocated for Trump to remain in the deal up until the final hour. Unfortunately for Mattis, the other two proponents of the deal – former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster were both replaced earlier this year, and in order to remain in his position, the Defense Secretary had to keep his mouth shut.

What does it mean to leave the Iran Nuclear Deal? The central component of the deal was that the United States would provide sanctions relief for Iranian nuclear concessions. Since the Implementation Day in 2016, when the International Atomic Energy Agency declared that Iran had curbed their energy program enough to receive relief on sanctions, Iran has fulfilled their end of the bargain. Yet, against the advice of experts on the matter and despite the clear diplomatic benefits of the deal, Trump chose to pull the United States out.

This incoherent action caused one of the top experts on nuclear proliferation to resign from the State Department to resign, in yet another instance of an expert in their field leaving the Trump administration. When will the brain drain stop?

Although it felt like the worst drama was over when the President decided to leave the Iran Deal, the criticism would strike the White House once again in full force after the nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, testified before the Senate this week leading up to her confirmation hearings. Unfortunately for the White House and for Haspel’s credibility, the nominee failed to admit that her participation in torture during the mid-2000s was immoral – or that she regretted her role in its implementation.

I commented on Haspel’s ties to torture a few weeks ago, but here is a refresher: Gina Haspel oversaw a secret prison in Thailand where the CIA used “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Or, in regular terms, torture. Then in what seemed like an extremely guilty move, Haspel destroyed all videotapes of the torture and classified all information about its existence.

Senators and the general public have reacted with outrage over Haspel’s nomination, despite her thirty years of experience. Senator Rand Paul penned an op-ed in Politico, questioning why Haspel has to come clean about the torture. The vote count is being closely watched to see if she can be confirmed – in what proves to be yet another embarrassing nomination process for the Trump White House.

More Drama Bombs

Speaking of Haspel drama, one White House official has received backlash over some controversial statements concerning the nomination process. Bipartisan outrage ensued after White House aid Kelly Sadler joked about McCain choosing to vote against Haspel’s nomination, stating “he’s dying anyway.” This distasteful “joke” refers to McCain’s devastating brain cancer diagnosis. McCain has chosen to oppose the White House several times now, and this call-to-action statement issued to his fellow Senators shows his desire to stand apart from the pro-Trump crowd and cement a positive legacy.

While Gina Haspel and Kelly Sadler may be having a bad week, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is having a bad month after the Mueller probe started investigating a monetary transaction between Cohen and a Russian oligarch. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch who is one of the richest men in Russia and is in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, owns a company that paid Cohen $500,000, which is suspected to have been used to pay off Stormy Daniels.

While the payment is sketchy enough, Cohen’s connection to Vekselberg may also prove to be problematic, as the FBI cautioned four years ago that Vekselberg’s foundation may be a secret conduit for Russian espionage. It is suspected that the foundation may be trying to access top-secret research and technology being developed by the United States government. Like I said – pretty sketchy.

Other Major Players:

  • United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stepped out against the Trump White House once again this week, after she had formerly claimed that the White House had given her false information about the Syria bombing last month. This time Haley declared that Mueller should be able to continue the Russia probe and that she will not defend President Trump’s “communication style.” The President usually does not accept dissenting remarks. In other words – it was nice knowing her.
  • HUD secretary Ben Carson is being sued for suspending the Obama era fair housing rule, which was created in 2015 to enforce the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

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